One day, I was talking to an atheist.
This young man told me, “Bo, I don’t believe in God.”
“That’s okay,” I told him. “God still believes in you.”
He raised his eyebrow, not understanding what I meant.
So I told him a story…
When I was a kid in school, I had a teacher who my classmates called, “Monster”. She never smiled. Everyday, she’d enter the classroom with a ruler in her hand, ready to punish.
It didn’t help that she also looked like a monster. When she got angry, we thought she had fangs. And her hair was so thick, we wondered if her hair was hiding two pointy horns.
Everyone called her monster because she liked punishing kids. If you were a first time offender, she’d make you kneel down on salt. If you were a repeat offender, she’d make you kneel down on salt and carry books with your outstretched arms. If you deserved capital punishment, she’d make you kneel down on salt, carry books, and chew siling labuyo (chili).
Today, you’d call that child abuse. Back in my time, this was just normal school discipline. (Yes, I’m old.)
She’d punish for the slightest reasons. It was almost like she enjoyed catching us do something wrong. And if she couldn’t catch us do something wrong, she’d imagine that we were doing something wrong.
Once, while she was lecturing, I opened my drawer to get my pencil. She walked up to me and slapped my hand with her ruler. “Stop fidgeting!” she screamed, “just listen!”
At another time, I was asking my classmate a question–and from the front of the class, she shouted, “Eugenio, you’re so talkative! Come here!” (Yep, that’s my first name.)
She also called my classmate, “Ralph! Come here!” Poor guy. Ralph didn’t even talk. He just listened to me. So in front of everybody, she made the two of us kneel down on salt and carry books.
By the way, did I tell you what subject she taught?
Imagine how that affected my image of God!
Here’s my point…
Where Changes Comes From
Did my classmates change because of her? Absolutely not. In front of her, we were like little angels. When she was away, we were like little demons. When she was away, we’d stand on our chairs and jump from one table to another.
But when I was in Grade 4, Dad’s company transferred him back to Manila. And so I transferred school. And I had a new religion teacher.
And he was the total opposite of my old religion teacher.
First of all, he smiled at everyone.
But the most shocking thing about him was that he believed in his students. Goodness, he believed in me!
How did I know? At the start of the school year, we had an exam. And I failed. That was pretty common for me, so I wasn’t surprised.
But he was. My religion teacher walked up to me and with a smile and said, “Eugenio, you’re so intelligent, I know you can do better. Take the exam again!”
Huh? I wanted to tell him, “Sir, it’s okay that I failed. I’m used to failing. I’m a failure. That’s who I am.”
But I didn’t say those words. I just went along with him and his crazy belief about me. I took the exam again–and for obvious reasons–passed it.
Because of him, I changed. I began to believe in myself. On that year, my religion grade was 95. (That was the only subject I excelled in. I still got 72 in Math and Pilipino.)
Permanent change cannot come from fear.
Permanent change can only come from love.
Fear cannot change you.
Only love can.
That’s why the Bible says, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)
A lot of people think that God is like my first religion teacher. Angry. Cruel. Punitive. That’s why some people become atheists.
But let me announce to the world today that God is like my second religion teacher.
When you fail, He’ll come to you and say, “I believe in you. I believe in your goodness. You’re an amazing person! You can do better than this. Take the exam again!”
God believes in you so much. You may have failed, but He doesn’t believe you’re a failure. He’ll give you another chance. And another. And another…
Friend, I don’t want you to just believe in God.
I want you to believe that God believes in you.
And this will change your life forever.
May your dreams come true,
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