It was around four years ago, when I responded to the call to become a full-time missionary. Back then, I thought that I already knew what the word “holiness” meant since I have served the Lord as a mission volunteer and a servant leader for many years. To be holy, to be set apart was nothing new–or so I thought.
Through the book Set Apart written by our Servant General, Tito Frank Padilla, I was given a fresh perspective on the word holiness which comes from the Hebrew word “qodesh” which means to be “set apart.” There were several moments when I thought I was already pursuing holiness and that it was enough that I refrain from doing what was evil. But Tito Frank’s words reminded me that it was indeed more than that. Holiness does not equate with the mere absence of evil. It does not merely equate to being a good and nice person. To be holy means to be pleasing in the eyes of God. It means to take after His own heart just like the many prophets, saints, and martyrs who have gone before us. These men and women lived the life that God wanted for them even though it seemed foolish to the rest of the world. Many of them were a “disappointment” in the eyes of their family and friends because they did not follow the standards of the world but made following God’s will their ultimate goal. They were truly God’s people. What mattered most to them was what God wanted.
It is a noble thing to have an ardent desire for holiness but to choose to be holy and to practice it each day is always another story. I remember a time when a close relative asked why I went full-time. She told me that it would have been better if I had chosen to help in the financial needs of my family by pursuing a career in the corporate world. Her words honestly made me pause and reflect on my call as a missionary. After that encounter I felt hurt and for a short time, I doubted God’s call for me. And time and time again, I would feel uncertain especially in moments where I am most vulnerable. When I see my batchmates and those of my age succeed in their respective careers, I would be happy for them but I can’t help but feel a pang of loss and envy—that I do not have what they have. But during those times, I would be affirmed by God that the life that He has for me far outweighs what I can find and compare with the rest of the world. He keeps reminding me that the ultimate standard of success in life is not so much about one’s status, position, rank, affiliation or achievements but it is about following His will.
To be honest, I still stumble and fall in this race towards heaven. But each day through the intercession of the holy men and women who were after God’s own heart, I strive to be set apart. It is challenging and definitely far from easy, but I believe that God’s grace is and will always be enough.
Karen Penetrante is a Full Time Missionary of Missionary Families of Christ. She is the youth coordinator of the LIT program and is the area youth servant of NCR Central.