“Why do You stretch Your arms and tell me I’m free? Why do You want to be in my life?” – Dirty and Left out by The Almost
All this time He has always been in control.
It was my first time to use a digital SLR camera, and I was a bit hesitant, to be honest about it. All I ever wanted before was to have one and now here it is, in my hands, looking so appealing and ready to be used. Also, for the first time I will be part of the Encounter God Retreat, not as a participant, but as a mere observer.
Tagaytay has always been the same: cold but very welcoming. I was back in the place where I first met God. Now I am here with people I barely know, most of which are barely of my age, almost all of which I have to take pictures of.
For fun, I named the camera Kidlat Tahimik (like a lightning bolt it can struck you at your most candid moments). With an inexperienced photographer like me, I cannot really expect jaw-dropping shots. But then I had to do it. A woman raised her hands in worship. Click. A pastor kneeling before the cross. Click. A hug that was so short I could have missed it. Click. A woman smiled on her prayer. Click. Random shots, random thoughts; things I could not make sense of during that time.
By the lens of this camera, I have built a barrier over my overwhelmed emotions and the Spirit moving the delegates. My attention was on the task at hand, which is to document every moment of that event. It was easier by the first half of the day: people still didn’t know what to expect. A message here, a confession there, and we were all set and ready to shout Hallelujah. Come to think of it, the ‘crumbs’ of wisdom imparted to us satisfied us that we forgot what the whole picture looks like. But God wanted more for us than just crumbs: He wanted us to have the whole slice.
By dinnertime, the atmosphere was lighter. Though the fog was getting thicker and thicker outside, the warmth inside the building surrounded us. People were all smiles, their photos ready to be taken. By this time, we can also see who made friends, who misses their family, who wanted to talk, who wanted more of God. A smile for a response is not enough: it seems that a hug would be more appropriate. God had worked His way through their hearts and they became filled with the Holy Spirit. If this is what they have felt today, I thought, what more could it be later?
For those who have always been seeking, it was like being offered the entire ocean after playing in the sandbox their whole lives. .
It all came like a flash: images of people kneeling, of people raising their hands, of people closing their eyes to get a glimpse of God’s face, came in simultaneous turns and I had to stop taking pictures. It was God’s cue for me to just stay still and listen. No one from the delegates could have expected the next thing that happened, and even us who anticipated this night were still surprised by the glory of it all. Whatever barriers that kept us from seeing God face to face before were stripped away. Like the rain outside the room, we were all washed away and cleansed. Like what the song said, how refreshing it is to know He doesn’t need me. Like what He said, He is the way, the truth and the life. Tears of gratitude have filled our eyes. Together we have seen every wound, every strike of whip, and every spit that landed on Christ’s skin. The suffering we have felt all of our lives do not sum up even a portion of his agony for us. In the face of freedom, healing came. Hope was instilled in us that we are worth the salvation; we are worthy of the blood shed from His death. Suddenly the cross has a whole new meaning for all of us.
Everything became still. He has graced us with his presence. For all of us, it was a night we could never forget. “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29). I believe that the message is clear: that God does not only want what we can offer but He wants US.
He wants us.
Praying over His people reminded me of His greater purpose, and seeing first hand how the Holy Spirit moved to them with a simple touch is amazing. It struck me how God wove their story by looking at their photos. Some of them might have been clueless as to what God can do and will do in their lives. But the eager desire to know Him is there, and we all know it.
It has always been my prayer to see a miracle and now here it is, in the hearts of people, people willing to deny themselves in the face of God. What could be more moving than a change of hearts? Wherever God stays will still be the most beautiful place on earth.