Building a Safe Haven

October 31, 2023

Dear Meryl,

Thank you for allowing us to visit you the past week! It was a good time of fellowship and of getting to reconnect. Reconnecting has been the greatest blessing, as it had allowed me to see what God has done in your lives since we met last 2018. I have not have the opportunity to have personal conversations with you, a regret on my part. I would have wished to dive deeper in our conversations with the hope of being able to offer tokens of assistance along the journey you are undertaking as a child of God.

It's been 324555647484 years since we all last met!
Aftermath of joining a barangay election procession!

Expressions of Gratitude

I am grateful for a few things having been able to listen to you in person. First, I praise God for the 2nd or 3rd or 4th life He has given you, a life extended despite the several "meryls" or mishaps that you have experienced. Hearing your testimony at the lunch-table at the Airbnb helped me get a glimpse of the kind of sanctification God is working in your life (however, being trapped in the UNO game into buying you a coffee on the other hand, made me question that sanctification! hahaha). Truly God's hand is evident in your life, a life being used by Him as a vehicle to spread His life-changing Gospel through your greatest and most painful life experience. The words of your blog are not merely expressions of a woman who wants her voice to be heard, the words are God-ordained wisdom that a world filled with struggling women living in darkness, detached from God, needs to hear. By His infinite wisdom and great kindness, our King Jesus has ordained you to do so. How do I know? You did say, you can't help but write. I know of an author that I follow, who when asked why he writes a lot, says that he writes for the same reason that dogs bark: he can't help it. If you can't help it Ms. Meryl, that's because it's His gift to you, one that I believe the body of Christ will benefit from, both your local church and the body of Christ at large.

The second thing I am grateful for is the opportunity to have seen how you've grown and matured over the years. You are no longer the 21-year-old, wide-eyed, idealistic girl I met at 2018. You are now an author of a published book! You have a following over social media who has been blessed by your content. You are now a teacher with a Masters degree, making an impact on the students under you (especially for the speech classes, where you provide a space where they can share their stories). You have grown wiser, more knowledgeable, more open to ideas and conversations. Yet at the same time, I feel you may also have grown more guarded, more tempered in your expectations, and more intent on keeping the safe haven which you have established - in particular, that of pursuing relationships. I understand, it is difficult to keep your haven safe if you allow yourself to be vulnerable in areas where you can be hurt and frustrated. It is unsafe to have your heart unguarded and think you still have a safe haven. It is unsafe to once again open up yourself to relationships that have gotten you hurt in the past without learning and applying lessons from mistakes learned through it. It is unsafe, most of all, to let your emotions take over your sensibilities. As Proverbs 6:27 says, "Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?"

How to build a safe haven (biblical and experiential style)?

Yet I write this letter to you (and hopefully future letters, with your permission of course) with the intent of being part of the community, the body around you that can help you build your safe haven. Through skimming1 your book, I have noticed a presupposition at play: we, individuals, are responsible and able to build our own safe havens. This presupposition is not unfounded of course, we are created by God with the ability to build and nurture civilizations that are resilient against invasions and storms. We are blessed by God with means where His grace is poured out to us individually, whether it be through taking a walk, slowing down in the morning, or counting our blessings and nurturing a heart of gratitude. Paul does say to the Philippians (and so God says to His children), "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 emphasis mine)." With your emphasis in the book of looking to God's grace, I wholeheartedly agree - safe havens are ordained by God through the humility and gratitude of the individual to her Creator, Saviour, and ultimate Beloved.

However, on the other side of the coin, I believe that safe havens are not meant to be built by ourselves, nor are they meant to be built only by you and our willpower to utter our repeated mantra of "trusting God" when we are in doubt. Safe havens, like the walls of Jerusalem that Nehemiah sought to built, were not built alone. They were built by a community of people who had on one hand had the responsibility to hold a trowel to lay down the bricks of the wall, and on the other hand to hold a sword to fight of the enemies threatening their safe haven. On a more important note however, the people who man the rampant with their swords and trowels were the men of the community - men who God ordained to be the protector and provider of their families, and ultimately the women and children in their community.

The role of older men in your life right now

I say all these both as a reminder and an encouragement to you: the men God has placed in your life, your father, your pastor, your spiritual kuyas are meant to help build a safe haven for you. You don't have to do it alone in your journey. Though we may not do so perfectly, we still bear the responsibility of keeping you safe and secure (by God's grace alone of course) both in the physical realm and spiritual area of your life. Yet not only these areas, we are also responsible to keep you safe in your emotional area as well - and in particular, in the realm of your emotional and volitional journey of moving from Christian singlehood to Christian marriage.

Now what does it mean that we are to build a safe haven for you? Let me start first with what it DOES NOT mean. It does not mean that we will keep you locked up until we come into a consensus of who the right guy is for you before letting you out (besides no one will pass the test and you may be locked up until Christ returns). It also does not mean that we will be the ones making the choices for you as to who will be your love-life and who will be not. God is the authority in each matter, and it is in His Scriptures we find time-tested and battle proven principles of blessings and curse for our obedience or disobedience. It also does not mean that we have to be in the know of every event and every matter relating to your loved life. We don't need to monitor every chat conversation your potential suitor has with you, nor require you to have one of us as your chaperone on date nights. It also does not mean that we are to scare away every potential suitor until he proves that he has the bravery of Daniel in the lions den to stand fast and hopefully get the angels to shut our gnashing teeth tight.

But what does it mean for men like your father, pastor, and spiritual kuyas to build you a safe haven for your relationship? It means guarding your heart by ensuring you have a voice that can speak to your blind spots. As Solomon puts it in the Proverbs, he writes as a father writes to his child, "My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge (Proverbs 5:1-2. As pastors and spiritual kuyas, we are meant to remind you of God's design for relationships and marriage, and of the qualifications men ought to have before you even start considering him as potential relationship material. It also means training you by telling you how men normally think and feel. We know that men can be confusing most of the time, as if we belong to a different country with a different culture (we feel the same way about women by the way). We are meant to provide you a voice to help you understand why a guy is speaking to you vaguely about his intent in the relationship on your 10th date night, and why you may not be feeling the "expected kilig" you thought you would be feeling when a guy crosses you over to the other side of the road. Finally, it also means that we are your first and last line of defense, in that if a man's action is confusing you, we are the ones God has ordained to find out from the guy as to his intention with you. If you have been having deep conversations with a guy, and he keeps on dropping hints like he has his eyes for you, it is our, not your, responsibility to visit him personally and ask him gently (with a knife behind our back, just kidding!) as to how he is really seeing you! If he runs away, we will bear the responsibility, not you. So also if he continues on and eventually ends up hurting you, we bear the responsibility, not you.

Why this long letter on building a safe haven?

I know you know I personally brought Gerald over to re-introduce him to you. Though I told you both that my intent is to introduce two godly singles to each other and let them decide as to what they would do, I know that there are cultural pressures that can accompany such introduction, and that can affect on how you will choose to proceed with this introduction. As such, I want to personally assure you that I did not introduce him with the intent of pressuring you to consider him. I was glad when you said at the car on the way up to Mt. Banahaw that you are more careful now, and that you will not merely fall away. Should you choose to be friends with him or not, converse with him or not is really your decision, a decision I will respect and be grateful for. Should another godly man enter your life and God leads you to that man, I will celebrate and rejoice with you and pray with you! I have no partiality on this matter.

Yet, I also hope that this journey of yours towards the man God has given you will not be based on our cultural standards of how we know that He is the man God has for us. Three things that are pertinent if a guy is to be your partner: He has to be a Christian, a godly and responsible one, and he has to be attractive for you. The first two can be attested by you, but not only you, but also in conjunction with the men God has placed around you - your father, your pastor, and your spiritual kuyas. It's easy to appear godly on the Facebook page or even on the number of hours being logged by the man in his practices for the worship team. It is easy to appear godly by the convocation of verses being sent during the morning hours of the day. Yet godliness is something that we can help you spot as we can ascertain directly, knowing how men think, and act - of course, if you would allow us. The third criteria, being attractive, is something that either you have at the start or something that will grow in your heart. I remember the first time I courted Rezy, she had no feelings or kiligs whatsover with me and my attempts. Yet over time, as our friendship blossomed (and as my stomach slimmed down), the Lord developed feelings of attraction in her heart for me - which I thank God for.

So why this long letter? I think I haven't answered that question. So here it is: I am thankful to God to have met the JLM family (including you, I have no choice hahaha). I realized as I reflected on my 3 year journey that you all, including you, have been instrumental in my growth both as a pastor, and a man pursuing a relationship with Rezy. It was you who told me na "bugbugin si Rezy sa panalangin" during the times I was discouraged. It was all of you encouraging me not to give up during times when I have almost done so. As one who has been blessed by you, allow me to be part of the men God has placed around you who will be building a safe haven and manning the rampant of the haven's wall. It would be an honor to join those around you who are advising you, conversing with you, praying with you, in particular for the longing you have to be with someone for life. You are blessed with your father, with Kuya Bocs, with Bro. Luis, and with other countless men there to stand firm on the wall. You have had Pastor Lando, who has faithfully stood on the wall, building a safe haven by discipling you and teaching you to discern. You also have countless women over you, your mother, the sisters in the church, ate Tin, ate Aiza, and the rest to nurture you and comfort you. They are your safe haven, a community meant to help you grow in your own safe haven of drawing near to God and growing in sanctification and obedience.

Message exchanges late 2018. Idagdag mo ako sa kilala mong nagkaroon ng lovelife dahil sa bugbugan sa panalangin!

I am writing this letter to assure you, more advices would come over time when you progress in relationship or regress (again if you will allow, you can block me naman pag ayaw mo na hahaha). I am writing this letter to assure you, that though we are distant in distance, me and Rezy will be committing ourselves to be part of those manning the wall of your safe haven, advising, praying, warning, rebuking, encouraging you, and if needed, comforting you - with your permission of course - until God brings safely and surely to you, the man He has prepared for you to lead you, love you, protect you, provide for you, to be the spiritual pastor of you and your future family.

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. 

Ecclesiastes 4:12-13

Your spiritual kuya,

Pastor Titus Jr.

Footnotes:

  1. (and of course, sometimes reading... again I apologize for not completely reading your book, I am trying, but as I told you, men are wired differently in terms of the content of words they consume). ↩︎

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