By Aldrin Relador
I didn’t believe in God for many years after leaving the Church. I refused to return. Yet Jesus broke through my stubbornness. Through a friend, I had met someone who lived her life with so much goodness and joy. I was intrigued. So much in fact that I agreed to attend OYP’s freshmen orientation camp to see for myself how this could be. I came to satisfy my curiosity. But Jesus gave me so much more. During a time of prayer, Jesus renewed my sight. I could finally see all the colour in my life. He had saved me.
Today I can proclaim that Jesus is Lord. Yet it would’ve been unspeakable before I had entered university. I am a cradle Catholic but I had left the church when I was in JC and refused to believe in the God of my childhood. So I became an atheist to simplify what I believed in.
I left for a few reasons. I left because I had been hurt by those who claimed to believe in the Gospel and yet acted in ways contrary to it during my time in ministry. I could not bear the hypocrisy and soon I found myself being part of the problem. I left also because I also believed that my life had nothing to show for. I didn’t have the sterling academic credentials many of my friends had. I felt that I mattered less because of it. Most significantly, I left the Church because my faith made little difference in my life. I lacked any strong reasons for being Catholic or to believe in Jesus. I grew up in a household where having faith in God meant being a good person. But as I learnt even an atheist could be moral. I realised then that having faith didn’t really matter. I believed that my life was very much the same with God or no God – full of disappointment and mediocrity.
So I stopped believing in God or religion. If God doesn’t exist, I neither deserve anything from God nor God deserving anything from me. My life was mine. I vowed only to rely on myself and never to love again. I felt neither pain nor disappointment, but I also grew numb to joy and any love I did receive. Though I didn’t admit it, I ached to feel something. Truthfully, I desired love. A love that sees me for who I am in all my pains, and my hopes. A love that brings joys like watching a new sunrise. A love that holds me in my sadness like a parent with her child. If God didn’t exist, this kind of love simply wasn’t possible.
Still I found no reason to change my mind. However, Jesus broke through my stubbornness the best way He could. Through a mutual friend, I met someone who truly lived her life with so much goodness and joy. I was sceptical. So I berated and questioned her faith in my search for answers. Surely no one could ever be so happy. And yet she looked past my words and straight into my heart without judgment or hostility. What struck me was the way she tried to know me as I was. I had expected her to push her Christian truths on me but she didn’t. Then one day she asked me something unexpected. “When was the last time you let someone love you?” I had no answer. But the question helped me recall the time I did believe in God; a time where I wasn’t alone. It was only in hindsight I realised that through her kindness and patience she was Christ to me. I was intrigued. Her question sparked a curiosity. I wanted to understand why she believed in Him.
Through her encouragement, I agreed to attend OYP’s freshmen orientation camp in 2017 to see for myself how this could be. I came to satisfy my curiosity. But Jesus gave me so much more. I went for the sacrament of reconciliation for the first time in a long time. The confessor had recounted the story of Peter drowning when Jesus told him to walk on water. I saw myself like Peter. I was drowning but all I needed to do was to call out to Jesus to save me. Receiving the sacrament was my cry for help. Jesus however was not done with me. During a time of prayer, Jesus renewed my sight. The prayer helped me see that I was significant in God’s eyes. And my life had meaning in Him. It was as if I could see all the colour in my life again.
The Lord was preparing a way back to Him – even if I had never asked for it despite being away for so long. Jesus saved me. And I have never looked back ever since. My time thereafter was an ongoing process of learning and unlearning with the Lord. I’m still learning what it means to be loved by Him. Although it hasn’t been easy, I thank Jesus for teaching me to be the man I’m called to be. His love has changed the course of my life.
Will you take a chance and let Jesus save you? For me, it made all the difference.