Sunday, November 28, 2010

Silver Linings and the Devil's Teeth

It's funny. When you're waiting for one specific thing to happen in your life, sometimes you lose all rational awareness of why that one thing may actually not be best for you in the right now. Let's take, for instance, the fact that I'm back on campus with InterVarsity and that one of the events I look forward to most each year in my staff life is leading the worship leaders track at chapter camp. It ended the middle of last May and after our forced week off I was already assessing, evaluating and planning for next May. I love these two weeks, the chance to work so closely with gifted students from all over the region, to help lead the rest of the students there into the presence of God at the end of each day. Each year I gear up for it and each year it doesn't disappoint. God shows up.

So, as I've been navigating the chaos of balancing my schedule and figuring out how to be at 20 hours and still actually spend time with everyone who needs it, I often find myself looking forward to those two weeks in May, as hectic as they are.  I've even gone so far as to say that one of the things that has kept me on staff so long is my love for this track  Even at the end of a long week when I think I've failed abominably yet again to get the balance right, I can't wait for camp to roll around. I often have trouble focusing on the now because of the excitement for the future in this area.

Yet, as I've navigated the world of infertility, I have the opposite problem.  I get so bogged down each month in how much I desire for the baby thing to happen right now.  I get so self-focused and irrational, so intensely disappointed each time this desire remains out of my grasp.

So when I found myself disappointed yet again this fall, I had a few of those sad moments and then suddenly perked up. Well, I thought. Now that I don't get to have a baby next May or June, I guess that means I get to go to Rockbridge. It had never occurred to me that I'd even miss camp, that most favorite of staff life events, if I had gotten pregnant. I still held unswervingly to my need to be pregnant NOW. Irrational. Finding silver linings is not always easy, but I'm thankful for that one. I'm also thankful for the silver lining of how much volleyball is currently in my life. Co-ed league with good friends and several nights of good play with staff friends coming up at regionals is no silver lining to sneeze at either.

Part of my problem is that no matter how many silver linings I can find, I also find myself utterly susceptible to that great tempter. I find myself angry and frustrated and self-focused.   For two years now, we have been trying and waiting and pleading with the Lord. Two long years.  And some days I get so fed up with the fact that I still am tempted to despair and lose hope that I wish I could physically kick the devil in the teeth. I know he wants nothing more than for this struggle to separate me from the love of God.

As I head into Advent, this season of church seasons that reminds us to wait and to long for a Savior, I have been reading a lot about silence.  I’ve spent two years being the opposite of silent, two years pleading and hoping and railing about my own unmet desires. And I know the devil would like nothing more than for me to be so focused on my own hope for a baby that I forget to focus on that ultimate of babies who was sent so long ago.  To long so deeply for my own child, that I stop longing for the Christ child. 

So here’s my plan. Rather than complain and plead, I choose silence this Christmas season.  May God grant me the strength to rely on Him to keep my eyes focused on that star that will lead me to the manger.  May he keep my mouth closed when I’d be tempted to choose anger over peace, action over waiting, complaining over hope, myself over Christ. 

So, devil, step back.  I'm taking aim.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I Want to Write Love

As I was driving my son to school on Wednesday, we got into a conversation about what he'd like to be when he grows up. The conversation went as follows:

Me: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
Josh: (with an unsaid "duh" in his voice that I particularly appreciate coming from a four-year old) "A man."  Right. Rephrase.
Me: "When you're a man, what would you like to do with your spare time?"
Josh: "I'd like to write. I'd like to write love all by myself."

It took me a minute to catch up with him but I got there. At first glance it sounds like this incredibly spiritual and deep answer that reflects his desire to explore the concept of love. The truth is that I'm always making him sign cards to people and he's got the whole writing of his name thing down.  Lately, though, he's been wanting to write the whole phrase, "Love, Josh" all by himself and he's having trouble. It seems that his current life's ambition is rooted in his most pressing frustration.  See problem, make life's destiny solving that problem. Very practical and I can respect him for that.  I definitely wish all of life's problems could be dealt with by having a clear goal in mind and just putting your whole self into it.

However, the bigger lesson I took from the whole exchange was not his problem solving skills. It was his answer to that first poorly phrased question that we ask of people of a young age all the time. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Not a question about what you'd like to do (although that's what we mean by the asking), but a question that ends up revolving around identity. I was so glad he responded the way he did. He told me exactly what he'd be- a man. Now, hopefully there will be some wonderful adjectives that precede that identity that are rooted in his relationship with God, but at the core, his identity will not be wrapped up in what he does.  It will be in who he is.

I will be 32 years old in about one week and I still feel like I ask this question of myself all the time. What do I want to be when I grow up? And I think my screwed up self still attempts to attach my identity to some sort of career, some job. When I took this job with InterVarsity at the ripe old age of 23, I did not foresee doing it for this long. I'm not sure what I thought I'd do after it, but I sure as heck did not envision raising my own salary for 9 years and still walking around college campuses every day of my life, wondering how it's possible that 80's fashions have made a comeback or why people are running around with water guns and headbands in the middle of midterms.  And while I'm glad to be on campus this year, I've felt a certain restlessness, a certain desire to reevaluate that question of what I want to be. Of  whether or not this is still my calling. I was certain of it at 23. Now, I'm not so sure.

Don't get me wrong. I love my students. I still think I have one of the most interesting and challenging jobs in the world. It invigorates and exhausts me all at the same time. But I'm finding my mind wandering more than it used to. The fear of what it would be like to stay home with my son full time was conquered last year during sabbatical.  My very real sense of his leaving for kindergarten in less than two years has created this urgency in me to make sure I enjoy every minute, particularly as I can't be sure he won't be my only child and I really don't want to miss a moment of his growing up. Do I regret having worked these last four years? No way. But I am at a place of wanting to be sure that if I continue to work it's for the right reasons, that God is continuing to call me to minister in this way, rather than staying out of comfort, momentum or fear of change.

That leaves me in an interesting place. I had hoped a job decision could easily be made by a pregnancy but have learned, yet again, that waiting for that to decide anything is a procrastinatory copout and could really prolong any decision, well, for forever. There's no real way of knowing if or when that will ever be a deciding factor.

Sabbatical last fall was an intense time of exploring who I've become and growing in who I understand my God to be.  It was a phenomenal journey that set me free in so many ways to embrace who God has made me to be as woman, wife, mother, friend, secure in the love of God.

For the first time in a long time, I'm asking some hard questions about my calling and desires, trying to dig deep and figure out if there are new steps to take or whether the path I'm on is still the right one. This new season is a whole different type of dreaming and praying that I never really did last year.  What do I really want to do? It may lead me right back to what I'm already doing or it may not. 

Either way, I thankful that I'm not looking to answer the question of who I want to be and hopeful that I won't confuse the two questions as easily as I have in the past.