One of the reasons why we joined CFC is the sense of community - to belong. My wife was pregnant then and we thought it would be great for our child to grow in an environment of kind-hearted, Godly people.
It was a momentous event to complete the CLP. True happiness.
We're active at weekly household meetings. We were at assemblies and national events. But we 'cannot' participate in Marriage Enrichment Retreats because we're not married in church. We cannot be assigned to any leadership responsibilities, because we're not married in church. We cannot attend other gatherings because, we are not married in church. It's sad that they inflict these limitations even though we wholeheartedly want to participate. But we understand the policy because CFC is within the Catholic jurisdiction anyway.
It was generally fun and rewarding. We learned new things. We rediscovered our spiritual life. The relationship with God was so alive. We felt belongingness.
We gained friends. We developed a support group. We enjoyed hanging out. The sharing sessions were enlightening, at times, empowering.
We were transferred into a new group and we felt the weekly household meetings became burden. It was repetitive and we didn't feel growth anymore.
We ALWAYS start late. HOURS LATE. For a 'busy' person like me, time is very important. In what I do, every minute can bring dollars to my bank account - that's why being idle is unacceptable.
There's an evident lack of respect to time. Unfortunately, it's a norm in CFC.
We also felt bad that our 2-year old daughter had to stay up late because of household meetings.
Prayers became verbal recital. Shallow. We read prayer books but we don't meditate. We pray rosary while someone snores in the middle of the prayer. We gather around the cross but the solemnity is distracted by our playful and rowdy kids. How can we pray sincerely if there's a lot of screaming and toys flying around? No intimacy. No depth. Just ineffective patterns.
Phony members, pretentious characters, politics, fake conversations, shallow prayers... Some people wear masks to project their lives are blossoming. Leaders creating conflict with members, instead of protecting them.
Members talk about people. Gossips here and there. Whatever shared in one household goes to another - especially because shuffling of members happens a lot.
I criticize some speaker's inability to connect to the audience during assemblies. I feel so bad that key topics such as Financial Stewardship, cannot be delivered in an understandable fashion. Mairaos lang.
I also feel the lack of more practical topics to discuss in the group. Why were there no financial literacy, entrepreneurship, parenting, business, family planning and other necessary pointers for couples? I can't help but compare the group with other Christian groups that are so rich in such activities.
Some activities also seem unclear to me. Why do they need to print different t-shirts for every occasion? My CFC shirts have outnumbered my basketball jerseys in 2 years. The cost of the shirts could do significant changes in other people's lives.
Hypocrisy. I could go on and on.
These negative thoughts filled my heart. My wife and I agreed to leave the group. We can continue serving the Lord even if we're not part of any community, as long as we remain obedient to Him and refrain from harming people. That's what we thought.
I was not looking for perfection. I'm looking for the lead to righteousness.
We went on hiatus.
No more weekly household meetings; No weekend church activities. We have a good life. I can do all the things that 'make me happy.' Blessings come one after another. We remain prayerful.
I was not looking at my shortcomings, my imperfections, myself, my wife. I lacked efforts in discovering the real meaning of community. I lacked the initiative to learn beyond what I receive.
I cared more about what I could have done (or earned) in lieu of the time spent in CFC.
I was reading the book, 'What on Earth Am I Here For? Purpose Driven Life Expanded Edition' by Rick Warren. Midway through it talks about fellowship.
"We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship, and formed for a family, and none of us can fulfill God's purposes by ourselves."
Yes we can have a personal relationship with God (as I believed so), but it should never be private. Following Christ includes belonging, not just believing.
While we continue doing good in life, I experienced spiritual dryness along the road.
I was wrong about what I thought of CFC. We left because I was only looking at the negatives. I closed my eyes on the rewards. I was not thinking about what I can give to the community, to the Lord. I failed to focus on the gifts God has given me to initiate something that could address the issues in the group. I was self-centered.
I LIMITED GOD. I could be pursuing greater activities, experiencing blessings and worldly joys, yet I settle for mediocrity in my spiritual life (Unlimiting God). One of the main reflections I had these days is how to unlimit myself in realizing that God is with me all along. He allowed me to increase my capacity to understand Him and His will in a better perspective.
Leaving was an immature decision.
My issues are only about few people. There will always be crooks in any fellowship, anywhere. There will always be one or two difficult people in any group - sometimes they even lead.
Learning from several books and podcasts these days reminds me about courtesy. We need to respect our differences, be considerate and learn to be patient with people who irritate us.
This article is a response to a calling. It's telling me that I have a role to do in His family. I don't have to find a perfect group or a perfect church because it simply don't exist. We are all called to love imperfect sinners, just as God does.
The people I criticize could just be having difficult times in their lives, and I did not consider that. So wrong. God accepts everyone. Who am I not to?
Every single Proverbs verse speaks to me. I need to rebuild myself with wisdom.
"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established." Proverbs 24:3
I feel that leaving CFC has a purpose. Ecclesiastes in the Bible says, "There's a time for everything, and a season for every activity..."
And indeed there is a right way to do everything.
All these reflections humbled me. Today I desire for more heartfelt and in-depth sharing, for authenticity. I want to experience mutual responsibilities through faith. I want to give and experience affirmations. I want to commit to these things TOGETHER with other members of any small group or community. I want frequency of a fellowship that not only listens but also encourages one another.
"Live in harmony with each other. Don't try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all" - Romans 12:16
Very grateful to our friends who never get tired encouraging us to go back. Eventually in our journey we will always need someone to walk through the path. The longing to belonging is inevitable.
I grew up active in the church. I started serving when I was 8 years old. I was an altar boy, a lector, commentator, collector, a choir (yeah?!), always active in community outreach programs. I was a devoted volunteer. I thought I was equipped enough of strong faith.
...and that CFC experience happened.
Transformation happens to anyone of us who truly connects to God, regardless if we are part of any group, or what church we attend to.
Are we joining another Christian group? No.
Are we going back to CFC? I can only trust God's plan. We're happily walking on this path towards learning and discovering our purpose, in a very special journey with friends, who generously share their time and effort to ensure we keep our spiritual relationship healthy.
The strong presence of the Holy Spirit is constantly strengthening our faith, kahit na we're 'not married in church'.
Today I stand in front of Him with a renewed passion to pursue this spiritual development. I surrendered whatever resentment I had with the group. How I've grown my spiritual capacity is what I love to teach others who could be in the same frame of thinking like my old self.
If you're ever in the same story, please DO NOT QUIT. Let's not look at our church leaders, let's look to God.
Former members of CFC Sharjah | 2012 - 2014.