“Monumental changes often occur in simple, quiet moments, and it’s in those few seconds that a person makes a clean break with an old way of living and never looks back.”
– Jason Cruise
I have been a recipient of my friend’s prolific garden patch. My favourite is her sweet potato tops, also called talbos ng kamote, which reminds me of the Philippines and the humble meal my parents prepared to feed us – fried fish and the talbos, with some vinegar, chili and anchovies garnish. Even now, when we replicate this, it remains my favourite homemade weekend meal with my husband. My granddaughter Eva, aged 9 also loves it, along with some okra. Add some piping hot rice, it is a dinner we enjoy, eating freely with our hands!
I tried to propagate my friend’s talbos for she says they are easy to grow. But no matter how I plant them, they wither and die. One day, I needed an ornamental plant inside the house, so I put some of the leaves in a watered vase. After some weeks I noticed that the root system had become so profoundly vast, growing in all directions that I became fascinated with the roots.
I realised the roots were speaking to me, spiritually that is. After almost 20 years of being renewed, I wonder if I have developed a deeper root system or had remained shallow. How can I tell if what I am doing is really the best way to spend my time? Have I accepted the pruning of the Lord in my life with humility, obedience and perseverance? Or have I remained stagnant in my pride, arrogance or my complacency to change for the better?
With God’s wonderful grace, I noticed I have reformed quite a bit – I am not as controlling, jealous, envious, impatient, judgmental, or unforgiving. Every now and then, I still succumb to some negative feelings, but my resolve to be deeply rooted in Jesus has started to bear good fruit. And when I look back, even the disappointments at time of prayer were overcome by trust in my good and faithful God.
I travel to Dandenong by bus sometimes. As I don’t drive, it takes me about an hour and a half. One time I applied for a job as pastoral care worker in an aged care facility in that area. The interview went very well. I did not get the job. I was initially disappointed, but I surrendered the matter to the Lord, telling Him He knows what is best for me.
A year later, I got a job as a pastoral care worker at St Michael’s Parish Berwick, which is only 15 minutes away from home. It is a role that I deeply enjoy as it is aligned with my spiritual aspirations and experience. Can I beat God’s kindness and caring love? How can I not praise Him, even in the midst of tribulation?
Lent is a great time to take an inventory of one’s walk with God. In prayer, I asked what I could give up for Lent as a sacrifice. Giving up my morning coffee would be a disaster and I know I could not survive it. I chose something more meaningful – to check at the excesses in my life.
During some quiet moments, I looked at the half-finished jars and bottles of cosmetics on my dresser, the unworn clothes hanging in the wardrobe, the bags that are piling up in my garage, some shoes worn only once or twice, the food I buy but cannot find time to eat, the endless trips to the shops for more items to store, the stationery that I can easily recycle.
I realise that consumerism had consumed me. I have assisted in many funerals and grief and bereavement counselling for over 30 years. There is always the rude awakening that part of the burden I would leave my loved ones is getting rid of the stuff I have accumulated. The paradox is I cannot bring any single thing with me.
As I watch the roots of my humble talbos kamote, I am reminded to tame my carnal desires in order to experience real change. I pray that it would not just be a Lenten promise, but an area of serious growth throughout the years.
Many have asked me lately how I feel about the case of Cardinal Pell. I am saddened of course by the turn of events, but I need to make sure that my faith is deeply rooted in Jesus, not on a human being, whoever that might be. St Paul advised us that “we all fall short of the glory of God”, and it is best to attach ourselves to the true vine so that our roots of faith remain strong and deep; that even when the trunk falls or a huge branch is snapped, the roots are firm and the tree can resurrect.
Lent has proven this to us. Jesus suffered and died, but His love for His Father is so deeply rooted that He remained constant and faithful to their mission to save us. Easter inspires us to grow those roots of faith deeper and we rejoice when we get through the hard times with God’s grace.
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Psalm 143:10