About two weeks back, I made one of the most faith-stretching decisions I have made in years. I decided to stay in Palawan, for good. Yes, I am permanently going to reside in Palawan and make this my home.
A lot of people, friends included, were not aware of this, but this year should and would have been my last year in Palawan. Initially, we set three years as the period I was going to manage our business. Why three years? Because we didn’t know how the business would do, given it was a startup. Everything was really open to possibilities. About two months back, my sister sat me down and asked what my plans were with regards to our business and life in Palawan in general. At that time, I didn’t really have anything solid as far as personal plans go. But I have been thinking about the “idea” of leaving or staying behind as far back as last year. I would voice concerns and sentiments to friends from time to time, telling them what my fears were and what it would entail for me to leave Palawan behind, or to stay here for good.
Like any major decision you make in life, this one was thought out and considered very carefully and very deliberately. I couldn’t make the decision just based on emotion. I wanted, above all, the peace of God “that surpasses all understanding.” I wanted to know what his direction for my life was, and not just me going ahead of him thinking he’ll bless me anyhow, anywhere. I wanted clarity, the kind that the Bible repeatedly points out to hearing his voice at whichever turn, “whether to the left or the right, walk this way.” But it was a slow, painful process, one that involved me facing fears head on and being made aware of what I needed to change and accept in my life. It also involved the one thing we most like to hold on to: control. I had to surrender control to God and trust him for my future.
As mentioned, deciding to stay was a process. It involved going home during the holy week to ‘reconnect’ with friends, to meet my discipler, and to just get away from work for a time. This was important to me because while I currently reside in Palawan, Makati will always be home to me and these were the normal, everyday things that I feel I have been missing out on. It also involved a sort of intervention/counseling session between my sister and I as facilitated by our church pastor. There were many deep-rooted issues that I didn’t know were affecting our relationship and my decision to stay that had to be resolved. It also involved a lot of praying and reading God’s word, and seeking advice from people I consider my mentors. I met with my discipler Ate Anne whose guidance and advices in my life I treasure the most. She always knows how to ask the right questions to get me to the right answers.
The most important factor for me when I was deciding was, ultimately, the direct command from God to leave Palawan. Surprisingly, I didn’t consider this until two weeks ago. I wanted to hear him through circumstances, through validation from friends, through his Word regarding closures and moving forward, yet I purposely left the part where I wanted to hear his command to leave directly. When I made the decision a month ago to ‘quit’ and leave Palawan behind, I rationalized and justified that I had made the right decision based on at least four factors I considered. A major factor was the conduciveness of Palawan for a single girl like me. Under this decision I also opened up the idea that should I marry while I was managing the business, I would still inevitably have to give up Palawan and be with my husband. This was a major decision I needed to take into account. How does living in Palawan help me meet a lifetime partner? Four years into residence here and I’m apparently still very much single. (lol). And I’m not getting any younger. I wondered whether I was becoming too hermit in lifestyle, too laidback that I don’t get to meet people apart from my current lot. In the end, it was mostly because I don’t have as much opportunities to meet people in social circles because yes, life here tends to be very exclusive and withdrawn. To each his own. Was I willing to trust God on this, to let him work out the details given my circumstance? Could I trust God to fulfill this particular desire in my heart or was I ready to preempt him and plan out my own strategies?
You see, I really wanted to trust God to take care of these things. In my heart, I do want to trust God. I repeatedly tell myself that He knows my desires and can write the story better than I can. But wanting to trust, and actually trusting Him are two different things. I needed to move from the former to the latter. I needed to stretch out faith and declare an irrevocable trust in the God who writes the best love stories.
This was just one of the things I needed to resolve with the Lord. The most important factor, which I have already said, was to ask myself whether there was a clear command to leave Palawan. Was there? Wasn’t life good here? Wasn’t our business booming? Am I ready to leave friends behind? Am I ready to uproot my life and start over? Wasn’t this a healthy breakaway from the city and the mess and all that Manila offered? So why leave? While the other option was also viable –starting again, looking for a new work, resuming my old ministry roles in Makati, there was still that final missing piece to tie all things together. Does God really want me to leave, or am I just insisting that I leave? When I weighed all the options (livability in Palawan as opposed to Manila, ministry, all that it entails to sell our business, leaving our staff behind), all seemed pale in comparison to the major factor: direct command or just personal desire? And just how brazen am I to preempt God when He promises to be good and to be with us all the days of our lives? This does not mean there won’t be struggles or problems, but didn’t He promise His permanence and abiding presence? Didn’t he ask us not to be afraid but to trust Him? Didn’t He say let tomorrow worry about itself?
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will[a] go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”;14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. – James 4:13-16
In the end, I knew in my heart that God hadn’t called me to leave yet. That He still has unfinished business for me here. It was validated left and right and I knew that circumstances were pointing out to life in Palawan. I knew that the ministry here was new and fresh, that there were still a lot of relationships and friendships to nurture, and there were still so many opportunities for me to grow. And I knew that I didn’t want to make a wrong decision and pay for it with time and opportunities wasted.
I can’t tell you how liberating it was after I surrendered this decision to God. My fears were replaced with assurance, assurance of God himself. Because until now I still do not have the answers to most of my questions. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know when I would marry (lol), or how else we would continue to expand our business. I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know that God assures his presence and that’s really ultimately all I need. There was no need to preempt God. He would make it very plain and clear if He wanted me to move out.
Here are some of the verses that have encouraged and guided me over this decision:
1 Corinthians 2:9 – “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Zephaniah 3:17 – “The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Philippians 1:6 – “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Romans 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”