Relphin Xavier recollects the ups and downs of life, all the while remembering the faith of his parents.

‘You should always be a religious individual.’

‘You should always convert others to Christianity.’

‘You should only spend time with Christian friends…’

 The above imperatives were imposed on a majority of my friends during our ‘growing up’ phase. I, too, feared experiencing the same. But no. My parents never made similar statements. Yet, I was blessed with a formative guidance in Christian faith that shaped who I am now – even though, at the time, my response to it was not so positive.

This is not a finished story. This won’t always be sweet and savoury. Rather, these are the insights of a twenty-five-year-old, who has been undeservedly blessed in life.

‘Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark’, quoted Tagore. For me, faith was something I absorbed from life. Waking up each day to my parents’ spirituality helped me see life in a deeper light. They would tell me stories (that amused me) of my childhood, instances where I had delighted them, ‘practicing my faith’ (creating spontaneous songs to the Holy Spirit, fervently attending daily Holy Mass, etc.). But then, the teenage milestone came by and things changed. But I noticed that my parents never gave up on my spiritual growth. No matter how big or small that growth was, they always found ways to praise the Lord Almighty. ‘Why are they giving all the credit to God when the effort was ours,’ I wondered sometimes. But things somehow fell in place.

I remember the faith of my parents during my college admission. Inexperienced in the ‘admission game’, I had applied to only one college of my preference (also closest home). But when the admission list was declared, I was nowhere on it (far behind at no. sixty-eight). Studying literature now seemed an impossible dream. My father and I met with the college manager and to our disappointment, he advised me to try elsehwhere. Dad recollects, ‘I was so disappointed as a father that day. I should’ve advised you to apply to other colleges as well. I couldn’t bear to think that I might’ve been the reason for my son’s misfortune.’ But my parents never lost faith (my kid sister too encouraged us saying that God definitely had a plan). As for me, I expected life to go downhill.

But God’s ways are unfathomable. I ended up completing three years of my undergraduate course, two years of post-graduation and acing an exam I never thought I’d pass. And when I sat in that same college manager’s office, completing joining formalities as asst. professor of literature, my eyes welled up remembering my father’s anguish in that same room, years ago. I had made him proud. I made my mother proud. I realised then that I had been blessed. It took me twenty-three years to come to that realisation.

They say that one usually remembers God when facing obstacles in life. Blessed are those who prioritise God in every situation – joy, sorrow, peace or chaos. As for me, I was not high up the ‘spiritual ladder’, just an ordinary person. And when life was hale-and-hearty and all calm seas, I sailed farther away from the Hand-that-made-it-all. Two years of teaching at the very college I longed to study in, I started to go astray. Maybe God knew it was time for me to experience a change, to return like the prodigal son; one fine evening I lost my job. Amidst my devastation, fear of being lost in the thick fog of ambiguity, I heard my parents, ‘Have faith, son. Have faith. We are all here for you. God is here for you.’

It was undoubtedly time to reflect upon myself, to be born again ‘of water and the spirit’. One question had, for some time until then, been assailing me – the need to completely give ourselves to God. The answer came upon me one evening, not as an epiphany or a eureka-moment, but as a simple thought. As I was washing my face, the image of a former catechism student came to mind. Though smart and loving as every other student, what made her special was her innocence and constant communication with me as a teacher. She clarified her doubts, talked to me about her family, how her day was, her happiness and sorrow, about what made her smile or cry. Few years after I quit being a catechist, she found my phone number and renewed our friendship. I realised that though each of my catechism students were equally dear, if I had to convey something to them or felt the need to help any of them, I would’ve chosen this little girl to help me go about that. ‘Isn’t it the same with God?’ He loves everyone equally, no matter what. But certain people have a persistent connection with God, communicating with him in any situation of life. Wouldn’t that make these people mediums through which the Almighty’s love and mercy pours out for others?

This thought occurred to me just a couple of months ago and is still alive in me. I feel my ‘lost connection’ being slowly restored. The words of my parents still resound, ‘Have faith, son. Have faith.’ Things have brightened up since then. The ambiguous fog vanished. My family now see a difference in me. It was time to enter a different phase of life.

Right now, as I sit here in the university staff quarters, my heart is overwhelmed, my eyes all wet and my mind content at how marvellous and loving our Heavenly Father is and how blessed I am. This here is where God has brought me. And though I am yet to reach that level of dedication and spirituality as my parents, I continue walking the path of life in faith, one small step at a time. Amen.

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