The Hound of Heaven
By Ivan de la Fuente
It was the night before Christmas. Yet save for our Yuletide trimmings, the laughter of our neighbors and the clanging of a nearby church’s bells, in our house it was anything but Christmas. I was in grade four then, the night when I was introduced to drugs, it was my brother who handed me my first stick of marijuana. I accepted it because I wanted to be closer to him. Ever since he made friends with the village bums, we started growing apart from each other. This left me feeling alone, dejected and lacking in self-confidence.
The Troubles Begin
I wasn’t always like this. I remember the first time I took an entrance exam for prep school, I was laughing afterwards because I really found it very easy. After the first quarter of my schooling, I landed number one in the honor roll. From then on I knew I had it, that I was smart. This was one of the reasons I didn’t have enough drive to study. I was able to get high grades even without studying. Later on I realized that I spoke too soon for from top one I became top three then top five until eventually I was flunking one subject after another.
Even before my grades started to plummet, the family situation had started to change. Before I was very close to my brother; he was my playmate, confidante and best friend. Yet as we grew older, he found other playmates his age. Besides it was at this time that he started faring badly in school. This made my dad really furious. He was already in strict person, but he became even stricter, especially with me because he reasoned out that he didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.
When my dad’s effort of teaching my brother a lesson proved ineffective, he changed his strategy in making my brother change. He became lax with my brother in an effort to win him back. With me, it was different, I thought my dad was being unfair because I was the one who didn’t have a problem then and I was the one who was being disciplined. I wanted to tell my dad, “If that’s how you treat my brother I’d rather be like him than put up with all the restrictions that you impose on me!”
My resentment towards my dad and my desire to be closer to my brother started my troubles. In grade school, I had a set of clean fun-loving friends. Back home it was different. I’d go with my brother and his disreputable gang even if he bullied me. My brother was four years my senior sand his friends were 10 years his senior. We’d go out and ourselves drunked at the village basketball court and then they’d challenged me to extort money from the passers-by.
When I reach high school, I found a different set of friends with the same vices. Plus we would go out to night clubs and it was then that I started picking up the women from those places. I was never serious with my life them there was never a day when my Dad would not tell me how lazy and worthless I was. This made me cry in bed every night, hoping that the morning after, everything would suddenly become normal again . I also o lost mum my self-respect then, as I begun to believe in the deception that I could never excel in anything yet deep inside, I also had this longing: I knew I wanted something but I didn’t know what it was. My self-worth received another blow when I became a summer high school graduate.
When I entered college, I started to think where I was really heading for. I managed to take a degree in philosophy but after a year of being with either pre-law or pre-divinity students, I decided to transfer to my former school. Here, not long after I got kicked out because I’d always prefer to get myself drunk that to exert effort in reading my lessons. I then decided to take a home study program. At the same time, my Dad hired me to be come one of his men in his computer graphics outfit. This meant more money for me to spend on my late nights out. My Dad eventually made me stop working because he found out that I was neglecting my study modules. So he made me stay home, much to my advantage.
Weaving the Chains
I was again able to meet my long time neighborhood acquaintances who then became my friends. I knew that some of them were heavily into drugs but I didn’t mind. All I cared for was to be the last one to drop during our drinking sessions. Until I found out that there was his particular drug that cam make one’s drinking prowess grow stronger. It’s called shabu. From the time I fist tasked marijuana, I had this conviction that I wouldn’t try any kind of drug. Until this his opportunity came. I swore that I would take it but would never but it. I’d just ask for it from a friends only when I have to drink a lot. But because it was an expensive drug, I begun to buy it out.
Eventually I used up all of my financial resources so I started to sell a few things from the house. I was even tempted to sell shabu myself. All the while my drug intake was intensifying. Form my initial intake of one gram it went up to as high as more than a gram everyday. All his time my friends and I would still go out and get ourselves drunk in night clubs. There was even one time when I was so high on drugs and alcohol that I allowed the five women who were having a floor show to pull me on-stage and make me join them as the crowd watched me so my stuff with these “entertainers”.
By this time our house had become the hang-out of my drug – dependent friends. My parents were never at home so they didn’t have an inkling as to what was happening to me. All they could complain about was that my friends were too old and too weird for me. The cops at this time would usually be seen doing their surveillance rounds at our village. Little did I know that some of my friend had been under surveillance for a long time.
By 1988 our family went to this Encounter cum Youth Life in the Spirit Seminar. There I went along with whatever the speakers would tell me. It was one of the first few instances that I realized that God wanted me to change, that He was calling me back to Him. Yet after two weeks the seminars effect wore off. I was back to my old ways again. But this time, much worse.
One morning I was driving with my sister rather recklessly. Everything happened so fast. To our right, there was this college gal crossing the street. I was to late to hit the brakes-her head slammed on the right of or car’s windshield. Her body, because of the impact, was thrown in air and somersaulted twice in the mid-air before hitting the ground. I cried Christ’s name out loud because I remembered a friend‘s advised then to call out the name of Jesus whenever you’re in deep trouble. We rushed her to the hospitals as blood continued to gush from the wound on her head. After she was rushed to the emergency room, I made a deal with God that if He allowed her to live, I’d change my ways, after a while, a bit certain that she would live I’ prayed that there be no brain damage, at this, the attending physician notified us that she was safe from any brain damage. So I found myself changing our deal’s terms again to no permanent disability until eventually, I asked Him for a speedy recovery. All this time He granted. He fulfilled His side of the deal. The week after the girl was discharged from the hospital. I did exactly the opposite of the deal. I broke my promise to Him.
Guilt and Grace
In one of my drug intakes one night, I was beginning to see shadowy figures all over our place. My head rush was so fast I knew that any minute now I could lose my sanity because of drug overdose. I was experiencing paranoia. I thought that I was going to die at that time. In the midst of my fear and confusion, images of my past flashed before me. I saw how filthy and wretched I was in the face of a God who had given me a lot of opportunities to change. I remembered the floor show and the instance when I almost raped the girl flirting with me in the basement. But when she cried, thank God I stopped at that time, I also recalled my stealing, the lies that had become second nature and my very own addiction. Then I remembered this guy who I saw in this Christian TV program. He was about to commit suicide but what he did was he knelt down and acknowledged his helplessness before God. Then I heard a faint whisper in my heart that I knew could only come from Him, “it have given you My Son, will I nit also freely grant you My forgiveness?” Then I passed out. Then I passed out.
The very next night I was high on drugs again. But that night was different. I was also filled with fear this time because I saw only two scenarios for my future – either I die of a drug overdose or I get jailed because of the company I kept. I realized I never did accomplish anything in my life that I was a complete failure and that life didn’t have any meaning for me. I cried out to God, “Panginoon, tulungan Mo ako para mo nang awa!” I prayed this prayer in desperation not knowing that God would start working on me that very night.
When I woke up the next morning I felt this desire in me to attend the Life in the Spirit Seminar once more. Uncertain if anything could still work for me, I gave it a try it was a good thing that the Bukas Loob sa Diyos Community was about to hold an LSS then. This was in November 1990. Here I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I decided to give my whole life to Him yet at the same time I was also skeptical of what would happen next. I enter to see if Lord had totally healed me. Two weeks passed and still felt no craving for dugs or even cigarettes. Then it became three weeks, then a month until I finally was convinced that I was totally healed of my addiction.
In prayer, I thanked God for His gift of freedom. Come to think of it. I almost thought that God wooed me differently. My healing was so complete and so quick I almost thought that it was too good to be true. By this time, our family had also come to know Christ, in fact earlier than I did. My life really experienced a complete turn around. I began to experience the very personal presence of this Jesus who loves me so much. I also became very sensitive to His voice.
In one of my prayer times one day, I just heard Him speaking in my heart that He would use me in a way that I could not comprehend. At another time, I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament and suddenly I felt His presence pressing down on me with such great intensity that I thought I would explode. I couldn’t move. As He was closing in on me. I felt something was coming out of my heart- this inexplicable joy that I cannot explain up to now, then again I heard that familiar whisper deep inside, “That’s just part of my presence. I haven’t given you enough. You really cannot contain me
I also had this impression that I indeed to go back to school. This one I didn’t take sitting down. Presented before Him my transcript just to remind Him how impossible is His will for me. But then He made me trust in Him and so I enrolled in several schools not really knowing what direction to take.
Then I realized that God had gifted me with a listening ear. I found out that I have this gift of counseling, I decided to take up a Behavioral Science course so I enrolled myself in this Catholic school that expectedly turned me down for two reasons: Their school should be the transferee’s second school I didn’t meet their grade requirement. But the registrar there encouraged me to write an appeal letter. I gave it a try and in it I wrote my personal testimony, how I was before and after I met the Lord. A few weeks before classes open, someone from the school administration called me up and congratulated me. She said that I was the first one to avail of this new policy which the school board formulated: that in special cases, the dean has the option to waive the two standing policies!
So here I am, serving as one of the three servant leaders of the Singles Ministry of Bukas Loob sa Diyos. Maybe this is what he meant by using me in a way that I cannot comprehend and by being great before His eyes. Maybe not. Maybe He has something greater in store for me. Whatever it is I know that I will excel in everything that I will be doing for Him because I know that I labor in vain.
I thank the Lord for not giving up on me. He pursued me relentlessly and patiently awaited the time when I would yield to His calling. Now I am the one who’s waiting on Him and his verse from Isaiah is what keeps me going”... but they that hope in the Lord will find their strength renewed, they will rise on wings as eagle; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow weak.” (Isaiah 40:31) I know in my heart that whatever lies ahead of me right now, my God shall always be there.
I wanted to tell my Dad, “If that’s how you treat my brother I’d rather be like him than put up with all the restrictions that you impose on me!”
“I almost thought that God wooed me differently."