The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n
- John Milton, Paradise Lost
The profundity of this piece of verse alleviated the despondency we felt that Saturday afternoon. The heat and humidity put our endurance almost to their limits as we waited for the bird to appear. Two hours-and-a-half being bathed in copious perspiration and not even having a mere glimpse of the brilliantly colored rarity could put any normal birdwatcher into a state of gloom. Add to this the fact that this uncommon creature, the Rufous Paradise Flycatcher, was seen by a whole entourage of birders just that very morning! They found paradise. To the three of us - me, my wife and our friend, Peter, it was paradise lost.
The reason Cynthia and I were not able to join the lucky morning group was that I was at Ortigas Center. Our church was conducting a seminar on the basic principles of evangelical Christianity. Having been a Christian for over twenty years now, I am already familiar with these teachings. As a matter of fact I have conducted several such classes before at my church in California. But because I am a "newcomer" to Victory Christian Fellowship (having attended here for only about 2 years), this session was required if I were to lead a small group in the future (something that the Pastors were grooming me to do). My wife, although she had undergone this training before, still came with me to give me her support.
Skeptics and naysayers might say: he devoted his time to God earlier and yet later that day God deprived him of seeing a bird that would have been a lifer for him. There are things we may question God about, but He is sovereign. He knows what is good for me. He may put trials and temptations before me to see how deep my faith is in Him.
John Milton's piece of poetry mentioned above says it is in your mind whether to make heaven or hell of the situation you are faced with. Shall I hate God for our disappointment? Or shall I continue to love Him and worship Him despite the unfavorable circumstances in my life? I chose the latter.
We may have lost the Rufous Paradise Flycatcher that sweltering, mosquito-laden afternoon but I had a consolation - a picture of a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker. Our friend, Peter, was able to photograph a White-breasted Waterhen. Our visit to the La Mesa Ecopark was not completely in vain.
My faith tells me that someday, paradise will be regained.