Many people thought I was nuts for moving to Philadelphia.
People from Philadelphia don’t understand why people move to Philadelphia. My friends and family don’t understand why I moved to Philadelphia. It just didn’t make any sense.
For the last couple of years, I was seriously considering going to medical school in the Philippines. I grew up there, my family is from there (and is still there), my high school friends are there, and life is generally good and easy under my parents’ roof. There was nothing to worry about – no rent, no car bills, no laundry. It is a very stress free environment.
When my senior year at Penn State was quickly approaching, I started thinking about the unthinkable – moving to Philadelphia where I had no job offers, no housing, no car, and no familiar community. What suddenly changed my mind, you ask?
It was the Church.
Two summers ago, I had an internship just outside Philly to fulfill credits for college. During that time, I went to Citylight Church, a gospel-preaching Church with people who are so in love with Jesus and his people.
In college, I came to understand that Christianity is not about a man trying to work his way up to heaven to earn god’s favor. No. Christianity is about a God searching for man. It was about a God who died while we were sinners and not while we were perfect. Christianity is not about being perfect but about being imperfect.
I grew up believing that good people went to heaven and bad people went to hell. When I understood Christianity, I understood that no one was “good.” Everyone has fallen short to God’s law or even to their own personal standards. Everyone deserves wrath and condemnation. But, Jesus died a substitutionary death in our place, so that whenever God the Father looks at us, He sees not our sin, but He sees Jesus’ righteousness.
The gospel means good news. This is good news because we don’t have to live in fear of thinking God will condemn us because Jesus has already taken the punishment. When I first understood this, I can’t tell you how much I felt freedom. Great and marvelous freedom.
I no longer have to perform or try very hard to be good enough, because the truth is, I never will. I will always fall short and fall into sin, but the great news is, there is one person who is good enough and who decided that He would die so that we may live. I am secure with my salvation. It’s not something I earned because of my good works, but something I was given because of Jesus’ good works. It was given to me as a gift for a high and terrible price.
I chose to move to Philadelphia because that gospel was preached every Sunday. I chose to move to Philadelphia because I knew deep in my heart that I really only wanted to become a doctor so that I could maintain the same kind of lifestyle I lived in the Philippines. I chose to move to Philadelphia so that I could be surrounded by god fearing people who were serious about following Jesus and loving people.
My heart was in turmoil when I was trying to choose between Philadelphia and the Philippines. While I was in college, the pastor’s wife told me, “Peace is when you have two choices and they both come with their own set of anxieties. In one of those two choices, you know that God’s hand is on one of them.”
Every choice we make has its own set of anxieties. The Philippines felt like the obvious choice because I knew what med school was supposed to look like, I had support from friends and family, I had no bills to worry about, no housing to worry about. Philadelphia was a big question mark to me. No job, no housing, no familiar community, but there was a tug in my heart that said everything was going to be fine because God had his hand on me.
When I made the decision, I remember not feeling panic nor regret, but peace. I had to rely on God for all of it. I had to rely on him to provide me with a job, to provide me with housing, and to provide me with a community — all of which, He was faithful in giving.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33 ESV)
Many people tried to dissuade me from going. Many people thought that it was just a “fad” I was going through. Many people thought they knew what was best for me. They thought they knew what would make me happy. The truth is: what used to make me happy has faded in comparison to the joy that comes from knowing God. Don’t get me wrong. What used to give me joy still gives me joy, but it is nothing in comparison to knowing God.
Deep in my heart, I know that I made the right decision. I have never been happier! 😀