I never liked jazz music because jazz music didn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music. Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened. — Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
When I was a kid, I didn’t like math. It all started with asthma attacks. I’d miss a whole chunk of classes in first and second grade. Hence, I missed the very basics of math. The math whiz in class was my best friend. In exchange for fixing his English grammar and letting him copy the right spelling of words from me, he had to do my Math homework and coach me during quizzes. Our teacher suspected something was amiss so she split us up and placed us on opposite sides of the room. We resorted to pretending to throw trash and picking up the answers to the quizzes from the garbage can (yes, my dear readers, I was a manipulative, scheming little creature then and if not for the grace of God, I’d still be wrapping people around my pinkie finger now just to be on top). We stopped being best friends when I took the top spot from him in third grade. From then on, math was something that I had to learn in order to perform and stay on top, but I was not into it. I found math dreary and boring and just too complex and unlovable. At best I was apathetic towards it; at worst, I loathed it for not being as easy as history, grammar, writing, and spelling.
When I was in junior year in high school, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime–the option to take the ACET (Ateneo College Entrance Test) along with the seniors. If I passed, I need not take it in my senior year, I get to pick my degree course, and best of all, I get PAID for studying for the summer at the Ateneo de Manila under the tutelage of their best college professors. To make the long story short, I found myself with other almost-seniors from all over Metro Manila and from the other major cities of the Philippines taking college summer classes at the ADMU. I had excellent professors–Danton Remoto for literature, James Simpas for physics, etc. But what made the summer unforgettable was the renowned Math-tinik host, Queena Lee-Chua. She was my algebra and trigonometry professor. I never had a math teacher like her. When she taught, her eyes shone and she bobbed up and down in excitement while discussing matrices and logarithms. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I realized math could be simple and it could be something I can fall in love with. Math became one of my favorite subjects after that. I surprisingly even aced calculus, statistics and economics in college. But first, I had to watch a math evangelist share her passion and not just share it, but teach it and its principles so well one would find it hard not to love it.
Just like I found it hard to love math, I found it hard to love a God who seemed remote and stiff… or so I thought, from years of enduring the rigors of routine and tradition. I have nothing against valuing tradition but in my case, it prevented me from appreciating and from being in awe of God. I attended church just to keep my perfect-daughter image (and also to keep tabs on cute altar boys =P), but I couldn’t care less about what God thought of my little schemes and manipulations.
Then, in college, I met a bunch of people who were weird– not because they wore crazy clothes or talked gibberish, but because I saw that they really loved God and they really loved people. It was unbelievable. They loved people who were jerks and who were losers in the eyes of the world–the most unlovable ones (although looking back, I must have been a tad annoying and unlovable too, but I loved myself so much I thought I was amusing company =P). They worshiped a God who didn’t even show Himself to them or even just create fireworks to announce His presence. But because of the kind of devotion I could see in their lives, I stayed to observe and to find out WHY they love.
That was when I realized that God proves Himself real not in any of the astounding miracles He could do, but in the daily change we observe in our lives when we surrender our hearts to Him. My desires and motivations changed and hence, my actions and words changed as well. I knew I was a different person and that I was transformed by a power outside my control. If I could choose anything to leave behind in this life, I would choose to leave a life marked with so much love from God and for God–a love that overflows and that allows for loving others, even the most unlovable in the eyes of the world.
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. — Philippians 3:7-9