Distilled

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

It’s 12 noon in the Chemistry Building on a warm Monday. Everyone is distilling their alcohols for the Distillation experiment (for those currently in First Year, you’ll have this experiment in Organic Chemistry either on the Second [PT/OT, in Second Year] or Summer [Medical Technology, in First Year] semesters). Tube by tube, alcohol is being poured, depending on temperature. Then the groups that are split into tables ignite the alcohol and time its flame. As the flames die and experiment wraps up with data gathering, we all conclude that organic chemicals have low boiling points, making it easier to distill them.

You may think that I’m describing events in a novel-like manner. But honestly, this is what my testimony briefly looks like. Here it goes…

Before I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, I lived a very bossy, extravagant, and selfish lifestyle, but not financially rich. I would see others as competition rather than as partners, although I had a few friends. I was also disobeying parents and, at times, authorities (teachers). In simple terms, I wanted things my way and if I didn’t get it, I would throw tantrums at someone and, worst, be bitter at him/her. I would even get spanked or, worst, dragged out of a mall for not agreeing to what my parents said.

And then there’s my “religious” life. Raised in a very religious clan, I was used to leading rosaries at a very young age (Third Grade to be exact). I was also attending mass weekly like it was simply an obligation for me. I thought I had strong faith and knew God well. But then it wasn’t as strong and clear as I thought I had. But why?

As I was about to graduate kindergarten, my aunt (who owned and operated my kindergarten school) and my parents set out to look for a school that I would be in after graduating kindergarten. Upset about my failure in Sacred Heart School-Jesuit (now called Ateneo de Cebu), they wanted to let me try a small school that could help develop me socially. Then they stumbled upon my alma mater, a Christian school. I took the test and then they told me and my parents an hour or two later that I skipped First Grade. It became a hallmark for my family and clan that everyone celebrated my little victory.

Adjustment came easy for me. I enjoyed the school and worked hard to impress my fellow students and teachers. I could say that I had a happy childhood with my friends. Although bullied, I managed to get to the Honor Rolls and be among the best in my class, even with my mom travelling for work. However, things slowly began to deteriorate in my life going into Fifth Grade.

Just as my classes in Fifth Grade resumed after Christmas Break, I wanted to join a Student Convention. I was already about to join when my parents declined. It hurt me so bad. The month before that I began having lustful thoughts about two of my female classmates and a teacher before Christmas Break. Although we forgave each other and forgot about it, it hurt them so bad that my teacher had to call my parents. We found the culprit, but that left me under the watch of my parents in terms of watching the TV.

Then the worst thing came. Just as the next awarding ceremony (called TEA Party) approached, my teacher didn’t announce my name among the Honor Roll students or TEA Party awardees. I was angry to the point that we had arguments with my teacher on the matter. This traumatized me for a long time that I began a sinister vice: pornography.

As Sixth Grade progressed, I began feeling lonely, jealous, and selfish. I was also bullied for it. It was hurting my studies and I couldn’t focus on it. I got bored, though I got into TEA Parties, and came at point of giving up. Then it got better in First Year in High School, but never maintained that pace of being in Honor Rolls, except in Third Year in High School. I was struggling to keep my studies afloat, but then God kept calling me back to His loving arms. Although I practically grew up with the Bible and devotionals (equal to Campus Crusade for Christ’s almost-daily prayer meetings), I never knew its significance until Second Year.

I was reading this modified literature book called In His Steps by Charles Sheldon in Second Year in High School. This book described the ways Jesus does things from different jobs and walks of life. It ranged from a newspaper owner to an heiress, and was set in modern times Reading this book, I was intrigued by the stories and started questioning my “strong” faith in God. But it would take two school years to answer the question of my faith in God.

Just coming from a phenomenal school year, when I got a girlfriend and made it to all the TEA Parties with Honor Rolls, I read the same book again. Then it started changing my lifestyle, starting with music. Then the unthinkable happened on July 6, 2012, a Friday.

As all of us in our classroom were about to leave, a speaker came to the classroom and read Psalm 91 to us. As we ended, she led us in prayer and then I gave my life to Christ. I crying like a baby and I couldn’t help it. The selfish man was slowly distilling into a distilled, Christ-centered man. It also rid me of pornography. But just like the distilling alcohol being boiled, change took its pace slowly. However, something impure got in the way: my relationship with my ex-girlfriend.

During my relationship, I had a nice time being with her. We were going out on dates in Ayala Center Cebu, became Prom partners, and stood by each other in school. We were everyone’s favorite for 17 months (pretty long for a High School relationship). But as months progressed I started texting her in lustful manners and touched her affectionately when the parents weren’t around. My sinister self came around disobeying her family rules. It didn’t take long for her parents to find it out. Then February 21, 2013, came. It broke my heart in half when she said that we’d end our relationship, but remained as friends the following day onwards. It hurt me for a while until God invited me to an event.

Just as February came to a close, a letter about a Retreat came to us Senior High School students. This was mandatory event to prepare for college. I handed the letter to my parents and they agreed after a few arguments. So I packed and rode a friend’s van to that Retreat that took place in early March. It was in that Retreat (the night of March 8, 2013, Friday, to be exact) that I fully gave up my life to God and started to see more dramatic changes later on. The following morning, as we were about to leave, the school administrator approached me and told me to find a church, which I did three weeks later, and not just sit outside during mass. But this adventure did not go on without another hurdle.

Just as I got the news that I failed Medical Technology in Velez College in November, 2013, I began hiding from my classmates who passed. I was ashamed and sad, and my parents were angry at me. But then as I was signing my clearance, two things happened: God comforting me through a Campus Crusade for Christ leader (he goes by the name Myriad here on WordPress) and the former dean of Biology giving me another shot at Velez.

At that point, I was about to enroll in Physical Therapy in Cebu Doctors University when the Bio teachers approached  and asked me to give a shot at redemption in Velez. So I take it and work it out. I hated the course at the start (for people like Yancy Gimenez, I’m really sorry for hating your course), but as the semester progressed, God changed me by sending my CCC discipler (Myriad). Then I forgave the former dean for being bitter about him, started participating in Bio’s activities and, made new friends with them. Eventually, my love for everyone and my happy, youthful glow (aka, attitude) started coming back and made me the man I am today as a Sophomore Physical Therapy student here in Velez college.

Everyone was once an alcohol waiting to be distilled by the Creator. As He distills you, He’s changing your lifestyle from impure to pure. Slowly, but surely, He’s making you the man/woman you’re meant to be for Him. There are times where you may not like something, but God can use that to greatness. A quote from Corrie Ten Boom clearly describes this:

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”

We’re sinners, but God made us pure in His sight. Even the people that brought me to Christ sinned too.

Today, I trust His plans and what He’s doing with my life. And although I may not understand what I’m going through sometimes, I thank God that He used those events to bring me back to Him. If I wasn’t sent to a Christian school, I wouldn’t have known Him and be enthusiastic about Him. I could’ve just committed suicide or done a sinister vice if I gave up in life, but He never gave up on me. Knowing and accepting Christ as my personal Lord and Savior have been defining who I am today among my friends: the Christian on fire for God (taken from the term “the girl on fire” given to Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games)

Looking back, God has made a ton of changes to my life that I can never equate with what I’m feeling now. And He’s still doing it until today with my life, especially with my boastfulness, discrimination, and fear. How much more with you? If He can change me from selfish to selfless and me pure in His sight, He can change you too. Jesus Christ is His best miracle to us, just as Nick Vujicic said it in his Manila sermon more than a year ago.

Jesus Christ has changed who I am now, my views in life, and my lifestyle. I can really say this now, from what God has done in my life, that I am distilled.

Without helpful, Christ-centered people (like these two on this picture), I would not be here in Velez today.

Without helpful, Christ-centered people (like these two on this picture), I would not be here in Velez today.

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