Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Moment of Conversion

I never could have imagined myself attending a chastity talk, although I am a believer of chastity and purity. But one thing led to another and I found myself at SMX two Sundays ago seated right at the back of a chastity speaker himself, Jason Evert! I had no idea what he looked like. All i knew was that he was American. And because the person in front of me was the only blond person I saw in the jam-packed SMX , I figured it was him.

Honestly, my understanding was that it was going to be a talk about love and relationships, not about chastity. I also heard really positive feedback from his prior speaking engagements upon arriving to the Philippines just 2 days before. Hence, I decided to listen and pick his brains.

The program started with a Holy Mass. After which, I was introduced to Jason by a friend of mine and we spoke for a bit. Jason must have read what was going on in my mind and so he picked me as a volunteer at the beginning of his talk. He wanted to start his talk with the question, "how far is too far" in a relationship.  And to illustrate his point, he made me put on a "lady gaga" wig and acted out as if we were on a date.  And in an instant, he lifted me upon his shoulders! One hand supporting me, and one hand holding the mic! Deep inside, I was thinking, Wow! This guy is strong! I stand at 5'11 and Jason was just about 5'7. He was probably 30 lbs. lighter than me. Then he lifted me towards the end of the stage and asked me if he should still go on. Of course, i said NO! And he took me down and thanked me for volunteering!

So what's his point? The point is not to put our loved ones in danger.  He said that asking "how far can I go with a girl without sinning" can be put more positively into "how far can I go with a girl in protecting her innocence".  Think of it this way. He invited us to think of our future wife who may be dating another guy right now. How far do we want that guy to go with her? It is like Stephen Covey's "thinking with the end in mind", the end here being marriage.  Then he said "girls, do not allow a guy to lift the veil of your body before he lifts the veil in your head--in marriage."

To illustrate his point further he cited statistics in the US which says that those who married as virgins has a divorce rate of 70% less than those who were not. This was taken from a 700-page book research in the US with the largest survey respondents.

What made me think deeper was his analogy of our love for our future wife with the love of Christ for the Church. He quoted St Paul's letter to the Ephesians. I couldn't help but think of Mel Gibson's the Passion of the Christ when he described how Jesus suffered for us, His Church, His Bride.  He said that that's how much we have to be willing to suffer for our future wife. And part of that sacrifice is to live a chaste life now. We need to free ourselves so that we can love!

He told girls not to fall into the misconception that perhaps if she allows a guy to invade her privacy, he will love her more.  On the contrary, that is the best way for a guy to lessen his respect for a girl. Then, he told us the story of a lady named Cristalina. When she allowed her boyfriend to have sex with her, he started mistreating her and calling her names.  After a while, the usual excitement of being together was gone.  Love had been confused with lust.  Until her mom insisted and dragged her to attend a chastity talk , finally she decided to break off with the guy.  Instead of engaging in sexual acts, what she did was she started writing love letters for her future husband whom she did not meet yet at that time. Letters indicating 'i did not give in to temptation tonight because i am saving myself for you!' . After a few years, on her wedding day, she gave them all to her husband, who happened to be Jason himself! She also gave him a white candle with a fresh wick (as a symbol of preserving her body up to the time of marriage after her conversion).

After Jason told this story, I felt quite uneasy. If I were in his shoes and would have to talk about the past of my future wife, it would really be awkward. But I realized that it was Cristalina herself who wanted the story told so that girls will not fall into the same error she fell into. I salute their courage! It summarizes what he said earlier: that love can wait to give but lust can't wait to get.

In this light, he mentioned the dangers of pornography.  Boys, especially teenagers, may be incited to get into pornography to show that we are men, indeed.  He turned that around and said that on the contrary, pornography emasculates us--which means, it makes us less of a man because we become slaves of our passions.  Men are those who know how to be strong in the midst of peer pressure.

He also said that addiction to pornography is the best way to shoot your future marriage in the head. Why? Because you start creating a fantasy world about sexual pleasures which increases your dissatisfaction for the body of your wife. It makes you easily dislike your wife since you are used to flipping from one female body to another in a matter of seconds. You also tend to only see the external beauty of your wife and may judge her worth for her body.  He told us the story of his friend who was a porn addict who divorced his wife three months after their marriage. 

For those who are into porn and sex, God is not judgmental. They may be like that because they have not known better. He admitted being into porn before. And so he recommends a "change of heart"--to make a commitment to live a chaste life.  For a start, receive the sacrament of Confession. In fact, there were 5 priests at the end of the hall receiving people for Confession. Obviously, that wasn't enough to accommodate the thousands who gathered that afternoon in SMX. By the way, the youngest person in the crowd was 4 yrs. old and eldest was 90. I estimated the attendance to be around 5,000 to 8,000 people.

He also touched on modesty, especially in dressing up well, without being provocative.  Modesty does not mean wearing long gowns and old-fashioned clothes. You can look classy without showing too much skin.  The way we dress also shows the respect that we want people to have of us.  He invited us to be "nice" and not "naughty" in the way we dress up so we elicit more respect from the people we meet. Showing too much skin is a sign of desperation, as if you are calling out to guys to look at you.

Overall, it was a truly inspiring talk, with a good combination of humor and wit. His stories were very touching and meaningful. I wasn't surprised to see a number of people crying as he was speaking. He was a great speaker, i just felt that sometimes he spoke too fast that it was difficult to absorb everything that he was uttering. How I wish that more people could have attended and listened to him speak. If only I had known earlier, I would have invited you guys myself. But at least he created a website that contains videos of him speaking and testimonials from other individuals like his wife Cristalina & former America's Next Top Model who decided to live a life of conversion to God.

I strongly suggest that you guys check out his website, . I'm sure you have many questions, and he has the answers to them right there. On the cover page of his site, there's a quotation from one of my most admired Saints whose words of wisdom never fail to guide young people. It summarizes the beauty of chastity and the positive approach we should have on it: "When you decide to lead a clean life, chastity will not be a burden for you. It will be a crown triumph. " - St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way 123.

For me, this is the most important lesson that I got from the talk. THAT IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO CHANGE! God is always giving us a second chance, and a third chance, and so on… that's how merciful He is! What matters is what you do with your life from now on. God will not judge us. And the best way to start is by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation & being truly sorry for our sins. I know most people will be hesitant to confess our sins to the priest because of shame or embarrassment. BUT do you know what the priests are really thinking? Deep inside, they are saying to themselves, "hey, i truly admire this person for confessing, because it does not matter to him/her what others may think, but what he truly cares about is what God thinks of him."

Since it is now the Lenten season, it would be best to repent and free ourselves to love. Before our game today vs Air21, Fr. Ed gave me a blessing and reminded me that we all have our shortcomings, but despite that, we must keep trying to do good and remember that God is always there waiting for us to return to Him!