I am writing this down out of the overflowing love I have received from Jesus and may this serve as an encouragement to everyone who reads this…
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
I am afraid to go all out on this because of the persecutions that may follow and I know that following Christ has a cost. I was raised in a Catholic Family that observes all its traditions and practices, I also studied in a Catholic School from Kinder to Highschool. I was firm in my beliefs and even lived out to the mottos of my favorite Saints as if they are my idols in life. I thought Jesus was a Genie that can make wishes come true and if my wishes were not granted, then I wasn’t heard enough. I used to pray repetitively and memorized all the prayers that are required in school; Name the prayer and I can recite them all flawlessly. This made my family proud as I always get chosen to do the readings and lead prayers in front of the church but honestly, I never felt any connection to those activities at all. I feel like I was fulfilling the required steps to obtaining my place in Heaven.
Before meeting Jesus, I was a mess -- not just any mess but a really huge mess. I was a terrible daughter to my parents and I even let pride get in the way. I grew up not speaking my thoughts out loud in the house and when conflicts arise, I always end up hating my life brought by bitterness and rage without saying a thing. I was bottled up inside. My dad who lives abroad couldn’t get hold of my attitude and constantly fails to reach out to me as I entertain my grudge towards him. I hated him for being away and making things complicated as I was born out-of-wedlock and I felt like I was hidden away from his world. He provided me money to support me in school and with my heart grown cold, I attributed my dad to money that if there is no money given, then I don’t have a dad at all. 26 years of growing up I firmly believed that I was either under-fathered or fatherless.
I redirected all my energy and time to consistently getting good grades in school I was actually doing great in attaining a high academic status. I also managed to secure my place in the top students of my time and was active and secured notable contributions in extra-curricular activities that honed my social skills and talents. This went on up to College wherein I graduated Cum Laude in one of the known Universities in the Philippines. I knew I was a terrible person but for me, as long as I do good in my school, I feel like every sin that I will make will be covered up by my achievements. I was an overachiever for no one but for myself.
For a smart kid, I did not have a clear view of how bad sin was not until reality hits me. I made friends with people whom I knew won’t bring good and eventually corrupted my character. I can drink almost any alcoholic drink any man can create and not get drunk. I was proud and I even accepted challenges in drinking against men who will eventually lose because I know I will never be drunk. I have never vomited before because of too much drinking and for a girl, I felt super. I even tried smoking and even tried using Marijuana just a couple of times and immediately stopped because I never liked it. I knew drugs will never do good. I eventually stopped smoking just because I lost places to hide in the house, and it was a hassle not to smell like a cigarette when talking to another person. I stopped because I eventually hated the smell. You can also see me in bars, clubs, and would sometimes sneak my way out in the middle of the night to party as long as I come home before anyone could notice I was gone. Wala pa mang “Ninja Moves” na salita dati pero feeling ko Ninja na ako noon.
I was a liar and a really good one. I can look a person straight in their eyes and would not stutter in lying. I knew it is better to make up stories with airtight alibis than to get caught. My family knew nothing as long as I keep good grades - I lived in a disguise just because of the reputation I know I worked hard for. I sail my ship and this is my life. — I was a fool back then. I was God-less, Fatherless, Loveless, Friendless, Empty, and Lost.
I loved boys whom I knew will just love me because of my looks and men whom I knew will never see me in their future. He was a serial womanizer and I was a foolish forgiver. I kept on accepting him back even if I know he was fooling behind my back and with constant patterns. I thought that having premarital sex with your partner is a requirement to have a long-lasting and strong foundation in the relationship and with the help of birth control pills and my ninja moves, I was fearless. I have done all sorts of things I thought that matter - premarital sex, abortion, and other things I will never be proud of. I was once in a 7-year relationship when God allowed me to break into a million pieces. I was not just broken, I was shattered. The thought of it made me cry even in the middle of work and I kept on asking myself if there is something wrong with me. There was no love left for myself since I poured it out all on him. I was afraid that no man can ever love me again because I felt was dirty inside and out.
I begged God to pull out all the care I have for him and that I never wanted to cry ever again just for the same foolish reasons. I couldn’t explain how fast things went but this I believe, God moved in mysterious ways only Him can orchestrate. 2005 to 2012 were dark years yet God is saving me day by day. He pulled me out of a relationship that NEVER glorified Him and weed out the people whom I thought were my friends. God never left me stripped down with nothing but He made sure I meet the right ones.
In 2013, a high school friend, Jill, invited me to dance for the Lord at CCF Eastwood and for the first few months, I wanted to pick up the broken pieces and fix myself. I enjoyed it a lot and met new friends, however, I had this guilt feeling that I am just doing it for the sake of dancing and not to glorify God. I do not even listen attentively when there’s a sermon or a Devo that’s about to happen. I was still lost and eventually, I stopped attending. I also stopped attending our own local church as the priests were being too opinionated about the government and it seems like a ‘rant hour’ than a Holy one; In a deeper sense, the traditional church setup and religious traditions of the Catholic church became meaningless and it just supported my indifference with the Faith.
Also in 2013, I met a Christian man who made me fall in love with him without the use of his hands but we did not jump into a relationship not until mid-2015 because he wanted me to love Jesus first before anything else. He pursued me for a year and he knew my story. I was afraid to be judged that surprisingly after he heard my story, he just asked me 2 things. 1. Were you sorry for what you did? I answered “ yes” and 2. Will you ever go back to those deeds again? I answered “no” — he hugged me and he accepted me as I am. I thought being with a Christian man will instantly fix myself but I was too weak for evil. I pulled my boyfriend out of the light and into the dark with me. It went on for a year but on our 1st year anniversary, my boyfriend took a stand for his beliefs. He wanted to stop the worldly things between us as he is choosing his ministry over me. I was getting angry at him for petty reasons just because I couldn’t get what I want. To be clear, it’s sex. He never wanted a relationship bounded by lust and he made it clear in front of me and he said that he wanted to keep me pure and I will be his reward in the future. Natauhan ako. I realized that he is slowly but surely pulling me out from the dark and into the light with him where I can see clearly who his God is. He loves God more than anyone else. I saw how God worked in his life and I was encouraged to know his God.
November 2016, when I went back to CCF alone thinking if I could really stay committed to knowing Jesus and it was a timely session as they were studying the Book of John. It was a perfect start to knowing Jesus’ life! Jill guided me back and she was happy for me being back. February 2017, I committed myself to B1G Fridays and my first goal was just to meet new people but surprisingly, the Lord had better plans for me and on my 3rd B1GFridays session, I met this God-fearing woman who is now my now DGroup Leader, Czar. It was not a smooth start because I was back-sliding. My boyfriend knew everything about my struggles and what kept holding me back and he said nothing but this verse,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV
Following Christ is never easy for me. Growing up in a strict Catholic family complete with traditions tested my Faith and my Will to really know the Lord. It is truly a walk-on-water experience! I finally attended the True Life Retreat last April 2017 wherein I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and God orchestrated and made everything possible for me to attend. My family had a week trip and had the house alone, which by the way, rarely happens! Perfect to have my quiet time and really prepare myself for the retreat. God made sure I would feel closer to home as the Holy Week True Life Retreat was an in-house one (perfect for me who doesn’t like overnights) and two of the speakers are from CCF Eastwood! The retreat was truly an eye-opener of God’s love for us that He even gave His Only son Jesus to keep us close in His heart.
I realized why I was afraid and worried back then because I kept on thinking how would Jesus save and love a SINNER like me when from the moment I started believing and following Him, I AM ALREADY SAVED! I was at a loss of God’s love for me but I praise Him that He never left me behind. I forgave myself for the wrong decisions I have made and for even trying to sail and navigate my ship. God took the baby from me because He doesn’t want it to be out of sin and He is preparing me for something greater. It was Ptr. Ricky who said that God the Father sometimes gives us what we want for us to discover that what we want is not always what we need. God never allowed me to get drunk because He made me strong. God never allowed me to inflict pain on myself despite everything because He has better plans for me. God never left me broken and alone in that wicked relationship because He wanted me to seek Jesus. God never stopped pursuing me because He needed to thaw my stone-cold heart. God never stopped guiding me all those years because He is about to call me. God honed me into who I am and what I can do because He knows I can glorify Him. I cried a lot while taking this journey because I tried to obey Him, this joy that I’m feeling now is all because of Him! I am here and what I am now is all because of His Saving Grace! Amazingly how God moved intentionally into my life. My boyfriend and I are repenting on our sins since 2016 and I honestly never felt this secured to Jesus’ love. I have repented of my sins and fully depend on God’s plans for me. God mended my family relationships especially with my dad and I am nothing but thankful.
“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4 NLT
I am currently serving as a Chronicle Writer in CCF Eastwood and a Facilitator in the Singles Ministry of CCF Main. Actively volunteering my time, treasures, and talent to B1G Ministry, in both retreats and leadership conferences. I now have my own DGroup of wonderful ladies and I still couldn’t imagine how big God’s love for me. Unchanging, constant, and just keeps on getting bigger and bigger.
I now live not by the mottos of many saints nor live according to strict religious beliefs, I only live for Jesus and to this truth:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8 NIV
I am a sinner, saved, and need constant reminders. I thought that hiding my feelings and hiding my world from my mom would bring her good but no. I hurt her and inflicted pain on her twice as much because of this. When I confessed everything to her just this recently, she forgave my sins because she loves me but she felt pain as I have forgotten to include her already in my world. I know I have striven hard at work for her and would love to give for her in the future so that she would no longer need to work but I was looking far ahead of myself. We had a long sensible talk and for the first time, I felt we communicated well. I was too afraid of being imperfect in her eyes that all she wanted was a daughter who will include her in her world — ups and downs, heartbreaks, troubles, and needs. All she wanted is a value to my world and she has been and will always be. I now understood where we lack in. We need to work on how we could show love and affection in ways we could both understand. My mom knows how mighty God is and she shared with me how she clings only to God. I am a prodigal daughter and I praise God for providing us the time to talk and giving me the courage to take a huge step in mending my fractured relationship with my mom.
Please continue to pray for me in this journey that I can make Christ known through the transformation in my life and that I can also make Christ known to my family and to my friends. Pray for me that I will never run away from our Father’s love and to always choose Him above all else. Pray that I may have the persevering and humble heart for Jesus. I know this testimony will result in chaos and would eventually lose my family’s trust and my reputation but what else do I have to lose? I have new-found brothers and sisters in Christ, I have my forgiving and loving parents, I have found my sweet spot, and I know I have Jesus in my heart; I am a work in progress who is fully dependent to our Lord, Jesus Christ.
I am Lyza Benedicto.
I am a child of God, unblemished, whole, pure, made perfectly beautiful in His eyes and I know that THIS is the BEST decision I have made in my life.
To God be All the Glory!