I learned the truth at 17, that love was meant for beauty queens. So went a famous song in the 70s by Janis Ian. Truth then was, sweet, romantic teenage love often happened exclusively to good-looking folks. The rest of us were relegated to the backdrop of the stage as decors or, if we got lucky, as audience, at best, clapping our hands for them in ecstasy. Sometimes, I saw ourselves like the hole in donuts. But this was not the mistake I learned at the farm this summer.
Then one day, I learned that really good things almost always came in ugly packages, not just small packages. Often, they were small and ugly. We can do with small, but I doubt if we could do with ugly. Ugly is often seen as bad news. Prior to this, I grew up believing good things looked as good as the packages they came in. I was wrong and I learned it the hard, painful way. I mean, I was disappointed to often get bad things wrapped in the best looking packages so that eventually all packages lost meaning to me, good or bad looking. Instead, hope sometimes came from things wrapped in ugly gift boxes. So I sometimes started looking forward to ugly packages.
But this wasn’t the mistake I learned this summer, either.
“Blessings” used to simply mean good things you get from a benefactor or sponsor. But as I grew up, I learned I’d been dead wrong. Most “good things” were simply regular supplies. Nothing special. Of course, people called them “blessings,” and the bible did, too. But the bible is also clear about two kinds of blessings—general and special. The first falls under regular supply and given to all, both the good and the bad (and the ugly). The other is exclusively for the obedient.
And “blessings” for the truly obedient often didn’t look good to most folks. It looked bad and ugly. Even disastrous and unfortunate. But these were genuine blessings. And they were given only to true believers, those who wholeheartedly obeyed. Like the violence and cruelty of the cross given to Jesus. Money and material stuffs are given to anyone on earth, even crooks and the vilest. Like Judas. He was blessed with 30 silver pieces. But the cross of Jesus is given only to the truly faithful. See what I mean?
So I was wrong. But this wasn’t the wrong I’m talking of here.
Often we get impressed by showy people, those who always put themselves forward, presenting or always talking about themselves, and dominating the conversation. And often we belittle quiet folks who we think have nothing to say. I was like that in my teen years but in college I knew better. I discovered I was wrong. Since then I sought people who were loners and quiet because talking with them proved more productive. Sometimes, you exchanged few words but share huge ideas with that.
People often still judge by appearance although they strongly advocate not judging people or being judgmental. And yet you see them sizing you up by what they see physically. You can’t judge people by casual short talks or meetings but you can perceive their character if you don’t rely on what your eyes see but what your spirit discerns—if your spirit is active. And I learned that your spirit is activated when you connect supernaturally with the LORD.
You see, anyone can “connect” with God, like how sinners in the bible were still given access to the Lord (remember how Satan talked with God in Job, how God heard the cries of rebellious Israelites in the wilderness and how Judas was made an apostle?), but only on earthly realms. Only a few dare connect with him on supernatural realms. And when you’re given grace to do it, you discern the motives and intentions of the heart.
Such discernment is not being judgmental. Yes, it involves judging what is right and wrong (in fact, all wise decisions are preceded by correct judgment). But discernment is more of identifying things or individuals beyond their outward appearance so you can proceed with caution. Being judgmental is unreasonable conclusion based on physical appearance alone.
So, if you judge someone to be a good person just because you see how polite he speaks or kind he acts, in some sense you’re being judgmental, too, though not in a critical sense, though equally misleading. It’s a vital mistake. But again, this wasn’t the vital mistake I learned this summer when we were at the farm.
Okay, let me get to the mistake now before I talk again of something else. The vital mistake I learned was that I woke up late in the morning at the farm this summer. Well, not that late, actually. I woke up at about 6. But the ideal time is 4:30 am. You can’t wake up late in the morning and still expect to catch nature in all its glory. Nature is at its best early in the morning.
Early morning, all nature is fresh with new hope and anticipation. Light slowly swallows what remains of the night and quiet, blue mountains more clearly show their contours and features. You enjoy the cold breeze coming down from Sierra Madre, perhaps originating from Baler beyond the mountains. Fat, native hamsters cross your path, venturing for a morning meal or transferring residence. Hawks and cranes and even pelicans fly gently overhead.
Late in the morning at the farm, nature is already busy with seeking refuge, trying to get relief from the intense heat in summer. Rice stalks bow to the sun and lose their moisture. Small wild animals hide underground. Insects seek shelter under bushes. Farm animals stay under tree shades. Carabaos look haggard. Only hens, roosters and ducks roam around now and then to peck on something. And there’s Gorio, the farm dog, looking listless. Worse is at noontime when almost nothing moves and the wind is too sparing. The cruel sun alone is generous.
So, waking up at 6:30 am (almost 7 am), I rushed out of the rest house to the rice fields and tree clusters to somehow catch a glimpse of the fading morning glory. Fortunately, I did see it just as it was about to disappear. At least, I enjoyed the afterglow while pondering on the mistake I did. I should never ever wake up late when I’m at the farm.
So, to somewhat compensate for the loss, I had a good idea about lunch time.