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Rebooted lives: Easter thoughts.

'We must die to one life, before we can enter another.' - Anatole France

I encountered the term 'reinvent' initially when it was the mantra du jour of business experts and motivational speakers, urging dinosaur companies to embrace change or become extinct. Soon, it was adopted by self-help book writers as the new buzzword for people who have reached a dead-end in their lives.

In the digital era, they call it 'rebooting,' used when you want to kick-start new life into a nonfunctioning computer. 'Reinvent' or reboot'-whatever-is the word that came to my mind recently. It is a term I now associate with the message of the Christian season of Lent, which traditionally involves observance of Christ's Passion as described in the Gospels and which culminates in Christ's Resurrection or Easter Sunday.

Two years ago, I was contracted to write a two-part TV special for the Holy Week. The Good Friday episode consisted of on-cam interviews with individuals who experienced some sort of mini-spiritual resurrections after going through a deep personal crisis or what Saint John of the Cross aptly described as 'the dark night of the soul.'

The first interviewee, a known movie personality, frankly admitted there was a time in his life when he led a gay lifestyle. In fact, he claimed to have had a boyfriend or two. He was then having a successful career as a movie writer and director. That meant he had money. And in many instances, he spent it on liaisons with 'boys' who ran away with his wallet.

Soon, his fragrant lifestyle led him to incur debts, which kept mounting. His debt trouble became so deep ('baon na baon sa utang'), he avoided going home to evade the creditors. Like a hunted criminal, he went to various places which were open all night where he could stay to sleep. But this hide-and-seek game he was playing wore him down. He spiralled into a deep depression that caused him to question his innermost beliefs. Feeling desperate and facing a crisis of faith, he challenged God directly to make Himself real to him. Then, according to his account, he felt a sense of grace enveloping him. It was at that point when he decided that he would stop being a 'gay' and become what God has intended him to be: a man. His conclusion: 'Wala palang ginawang bakla ang Diyos.' Looking at his life at this point, he says he now feels a sense of peace within himself.

The next interviewees were ex-convict women, who met in a correctional institute where they were serving their time.

L. was imprisoned for the crime of funds malversation as an accountant in a government organization. Sentenced to 18 years in prison, she questioned God about her fate. But according to her, God assured her: 'Babes, trust me.' Her faith strengthened. She rebounded from this humiliating ordeal and used it as an opportunity to evangelize and apostolate among her fellow prisoners inside the Correctional Institute for Women, not minding the scorn heaped upon her by other prisoners. After only five years, she was paroled. Today, outside the prison, she has not ceased from her prison ministry, faithfully visiting and rendering spiritual service to women prisoners. She says that she has realized that everything is God's design, and she no longer questions God's wisdom, letting Him use her as an instrument of His Divine designs.

E., the other woman-convict, used to be a top salesperson in her company engaged in telecommunications. But her pride in her selling skills led her to go into illegal recruitment to earn more money. A complaint from one of her customers led to her arrest and conviction. Forced to confront her own self, she decided to change and found spiritual solace by ministering to her fellow prisoners, physically and spiritually. In the midst of deprivation as a prisoner, she became happy and contented. Now on parole, she goes from prison to prison, ministering to those who are 'hungry for God's word.'

These two women ex-convicts could have wallowed in self-pity. Instead of restricting and constraining them, the prison freed them from a yoke or burden.

The feeling of being unshackled is exactly what Martin experienced after being held down by a heavy yoke. A gifted fixer of cars in his youth, he was also a heavy user of drugs for 20 years. Through the efforts of his siblings, Martin was rehabilitated, and during his days at the center, while praying the rosary to while the time away and ward off boredom, he suddenly experienced his 'Damascus' moment. This opened his eyes to his life's true calling: to establish his own rehabilitation center using his past experience as a drug addict. Overcoming challenge after challenge, going through one financial crisis after another, he persevered and eventually was able to find solid footing and, today, his rehab center is an internationally certified and thriving facility for drug dependents. Martin was lost and was found and he now seeks others who have been lost, too. Whereas in his past life Martin was into car troubleshooting, now he fixes troubled people.

Every day somewhere, people are experiencing personal resurrections. They could be friends of yours or mine, old folks like me, neighbors, social-media acquaintances, workmates and even leaders of companies or communities. They know they did bad things and now feel trapped in their own hells. They've reached rock bottom and find themselves in a chasm or abyss of transition. They are 'offenders' who have made amends or are in the process of reinventing themselves, on a tortuous path toward regeneration.

It is worth noting that each of the four featured individuals I mentioned have found ways of 'giving forward,' a generosity of service that energizes and enlarges them. Old burdens became lighter. They harness the God-given skills, temperaments and perspectives they had acquired in the past chapters of their lives. They are now truly living, serving the walking wounded, the abandoned, the lost and giving their all for others. In other words, they are fully alive for others!

Watching them and listening intently to their personal stories which poured out of their innermost selves, I couldn't help feeling the stirrings of a buried and neglected part of me. They have given the celebration of Easter Sunday a rebooted new life for me.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Apr 13, 2019
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