I remember planting two avocado seeds back in year 2000. Both bore stems and leaves after what seemed like forever. A few weeks after, one of the small trees died. So I took better care of the remaining one, worried that, it too, would die on me. Seeing it was getting stronger and sturdier, I decided to pick a spot in my mom’s front yard, and there it was until now, almost 16 years later. It’s not a very big tree as I had envisioned it, but what really frustrates me is that, up to now, it never bore fruit. You know what they do about fruit trees that don’t bear fruits. You cut them down to be used for timber or firewood or for whatever other purpose, other than just occupying space. Thankfully, the tree is still there. No one has decided to chop it down yet.
I somehow consider it as my memorial tree. It marks that year when I started living independently from my mom. It was also that year when I had the freedom to worship in a Christian church. I didn’t specifically ask permission from my mom, being already an adult that time, but also because I know she wouldn’t allow me. Of course, moms have a way of finding out hahaha! In some instances I would call back home and she would ask where I was. I’d say I’m in church. She knew what that meant, and those times, I could sense some resistance but I guess, since I’m not doing something bad, she just let it go, until she got used to that. You see, I was born and raised a Catholic.
My long journey into faith started to take a turn that time I planted the avocado tree. So you could probably somehow see its significance.
Perhaps, it would be a good idea to look back to when I was still a Catholic. I studied in a Catholic school. And in many occasions, we celebrated the holy mass in our school chapel or in the school grounds. I was typically pious, doing whatever was required during the mass: genuflecting in front of the tabernacle or even as I enter the church, doing the sign of the cross, sitting, kneeling, or standing as appropriate, reverently taking the host during communion, among other things. I did what was expected of every professing Catholic.
I listened to the homilies most times, some even touching my young heart. But there were times that I simply got lost in my own thoughts as the priest delivered his sermon to which I could not make anything of. Praying the rosary was one of my least favorite of activities. God knows I tried to really feel the words and imagine Mary and the angel of God conversing. But I was never fond of repetitious prayer. It felt like chanting to me, mumbling words devoid of meaning. To me it just seemed too impersonal, like I was a robot programmed to say things.
During college days, Christians from CCC and JIL reached out to me and I listened and tried to absorb what they shared, but whatever they said to me was not enough to encourage me to change religion. Back then, my thinking was that, all religions are flawed anyway so why should I give up Catholicism? There are no such thing as a perfect church.
Even in my stubbornness, I have this nagging feeling that something was missing. I asked if that was all there was to life and faith. Was it all just routines and rituals, of doing the right things, at the right time? Years of religion classes and church-related activities, nothing seemed to touch me in a very personal, life-changing way. I actually felt the beginnings of spiritual dryness in the religion I was born in. I realized that it was all too rigid and structured in a way that hindered me from growing in faith. Maybe, I simply just didn’t fit into that kind of church setting.
The avocado tree took a really long time to sprout anything and sometimes, I was wondering if even a single leaf would come out. I was like that, just a seed.
God then led me to people who also opened doors for me in the years to come.
From the very time I was invited to a Christian service, I was never the same. I knew then what I was missing. I realized there was so much hunger for the Word. I used to get bored with a one-hour mass (sorry, that’s just me so please don’t take offense if you’re a Catholic). In the Christian church where I first attended service, they usually extend to 2 hours or more, depending on the pastor, and yet, I was rarely impatient for the service to end. In fact, I lose track of time, except when my stomach would grumble, reminding me that it was past lunch time.
For 15 years I was planted in a Christian church that was crucial in changing my mindset and opening my eyes and heart to the truths I never knew in my former faith. For more than a decade, I have unlearned and learned so many things. Many times, I found myself crying during the sermons, and on many occasions, even during praise and worship. It’s like I was being broken down bit by bit and then being built up again with stronger foundations.
But although I was content with where I was, God had other plans as well. I was already in my comfort zone, a church I considered my home already. I was content, but stagnant in some ways. God decided to pluck me out, seeing that I was not growing and flourishing as I should. It wasn’t the church’s fault or anything. Maybe, I’m just cut out for a different approach or setting, or maybe it was time for a different season in life.
Like the surviving avocado tree, I sprouted branches and leaves, but no fruit in sight. The reason, I think was that it was too hot and humid in the northern parts of Luzon. It was meant for cooler climates, like that in the southern part where it came from. And maybe it was also because the other trees were overcrowding it. It probably needed bigger space or a different soil. I’m not a tree expert. All I know is, it’s not planted in the environment where it would grow to its full potential.
Just last year, I started attending another Christian church. It’s just barely a year now but a lot has already happened in my faith journey the past months. My growth in the faith has been exponential. I am just amazed seeing the hand of God at work in my life in more evident ways.
I now have a new home church in Victory Christian Fellowship. That is where I finally, truly surrendered my life to Christ. That is where God has taken me, in this new chapter. He has worked things out, so that I am now surrounded by people who are not just fellow church attendees but people I could actually call my sisters in Christ. As I continue to open up myself to what God has in store for me, I am now more aware of how God is directing my life in line with His purpose. I am a changed life, filled with purpose and anticipation for His wonderful plans. My relationship with Him has also evolved, more intimate and personal this time.
I never really questioned why this journey led me to where I am now. The Master Gardener knows what He’s doing. He plants us where we would grow and flourish and where we would best accomplish His purpose. Personally, I think it doesn’t matter where we are, as long as we are where God exactly wants us to be.
I am where God wants me to be. And this is where I will grow and flourish, until the Master Gardener decides to plant me somewhere else. As for me, I am just enjoying this journey in faith, and unlike my avocado tree, I feel like I’m starting to sprout flowers that would become fruits later, ripe for the picking.
I did not choose this path, but God directed me here. Left on my own, I would have stayed put where it was familiar and comfortable. In His grace and mercy, He didn’t allow me to stay where I was. Being uprooted is not only uncomfortable, but sometimes, also painful. But in all of that, I know I am in the best care of the One who knows what’s best for me. He alone knows how I can grow to my full potential. I know that I can trust God with that, and with everything….always.