January 30, 2015

Loving the Rain...

It is a beautiful day in Phoenix. It is raining lightly; the sound of the drops as they hit my window are tapping a steady rhythmic beat. I love the rain. I love gray skies and wet and soggy days. There is something wonderful about a rainy day -- something that calls to us -- and makes us want to take comfort inside. Yes, I have to venture outside soon (at 2:30), but until then, I am tucked away inside my room, sipping my hot coffee, and wiling away at the time. I am surrounded by my two best buds -- my fur balls -- Ike and Winston. Both cats have settled into their late morning naps, and their sleepy, half-closed eyes, make me want to snuggle up with them and fall asleep too. I can't do that, of course. I have work to do, class to prep for, and assignments (for Regent) to work on...all before I head out the door. Yet, I so want to stay at home and just rest awhile.

As I think about the rain, I remember this verse, Hosea 6:3, from Scripture. In chapter 6, verses 1-3, we read about Hosea's call to Israel to repent,

Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces;
now he will heal us.
He has injured us;
now he will bandage our wounds.

In just a short time he will restore us,
so that we may live in his presence.
Oh, that we might know the Lord!
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of rains in early spring.

Then in verses 5-6, we hear the voice of the Lord as He tells Israel what He longs for them to do:

I want you to show love,
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
more than I want burnt offerings.

Yes, the Lord is calling to His people, calling His people to turn from their sins and repent. The Lord longs for them to know Him, and Hosea likens "knowing God" to that of the refreshment of the spring rains.

I think about this story today, and I see such parallels in my life. So often I am hard headed and stubborn. I do know the Lord, I know Him well, yet I still refuse at times to listen to His voice, to abide in His Spirit, and to receive His wise counsel and judgment. I stick my neck out and I say to the Lord, "I know best," when in my heart of hearts, I know the truth -- I do not know what is best for me, not today, nor tomorrow.

If only I would return to Him and turn from my stubborn refusal to listen. The prophet states that the Lord will heal us, that He will bandage our wounds (literal and figuratively). If we bend to Him, He will restore us and He will bring refreshment to our weary souls. He will bring rain to quench our thirst, to bring relief to the parchness, the dryness of our lives. Yes, Lord, may we return to you, and may we receive your healing and restoration. Bring your sweet rains into our lives, pour them down upon us, and refresh our souls! Selah!

I think about this today because I have strayed from the Lord's counsel. Although I am not off the mark, not stubbornly refusing to go where the Lord is sending me or to do the work He has prepared for me to do -- I am thinking, pondering, questioning His judgment in all things. I am saying to the Lord, "I am not sure I believe you. I am not sure I trust your judgment, your timing, your provision." Yes, I am questioning the integrity and authority of the Lord to rule and to reign Sovereign over EVERY DETAIL OF MY LIFE. Ouch!

Let me explain...

This past week, I had the opportunity to apply for two positions at a major university. This university is in Alabama. Why in the world would I choose to go to Alabama? Yes, good question. The Lord has been working in my life over the past 6-7 months, and He has brought someone special into my life. This person happens to live in AL. I am in AZ. Yep, minor conflict --distance, predicament, challenge -- when it comes to a relationship . Yet, the Lord has opened a door to potentially resolving that conflict. He has directed me to consider moving there, to shorten the gap in distance, so to speak, and He has shown me a way to go.

The jobs I applied for are vastly different from one another. One is an administrative role, non-faculty, sort of a program coordinator type position. It matches my experience, my education, and my interests (research, etc.). It pays well. It is a FT position with benefits, and it would start (I am assuming) sooner rather than later. The second position is a one-year teaching position in my field. It offers the flexibility of a 9 month assignment, renewal for up to four years (five total). It is intensive, and it requires experience in teaching communication courses. The pay is average, and there is an uncertainty of benefits. Still, it is a teaching position at a major university, and that in and of itself is significant.

I applied for both, the administrator role first, the faculty position second. I struggled all week with the faculty role because I felt that I was not qualified nor able (physically) to do the job. I am sure I could do the job, and I know the Lord would provide for me, help me, strengthen me, etc. It was just that I am so tired from teaching right now that the thought of teaching four intensive courses each semester seemed like too much work for the amount of pay offered. I grumbled. I fretted. I discounted the Lord's counsel to me.

Last night, while I was driving home, I started to question the whole "timing" of the issue. I thought perhaps it would make more sense to wait for another year. After all, my son would be graduating in 2016, and my parents, who are in declining health, would more than likely be ready to move into an independent/assisted living arrangement. I asked the Lord, "wouldn't that make more sense?" Ahem. Isn't that like the Israelite's grumbling about returning to Egypt after the Lord had rescued them from the horrors that they suffered?

Yep, I did it. I complained, and I grumbled before the Lord.

The Lord was gracious to me. He is always gracious to me. But in truth, I felt downcast the entire night. I relented later on, but I still questioned what He was doing in my life. Perhaps He had made a mistake, perhaps I had misinterpreted His remark "to go!"

This morning, as I woke up to the rain, I started to think about the Lord's provision for my life over the past year or so. He has been faithful to keep me in check, to keep my finances in order, and to provide for each and for every need. My bank account has not run out, even though there have been times this past year when I worried so much that it would, the Lord has faithfully provided for me. Now, I sit here and I consider the thought of moving across the US, to a place where I have never been before, to a job, a life where there is so much uncertainty. It is scary to say the least. I wonder if I can do this thing...if I can pick up my life in Phoenix and transplant it over there --> over to this new place filled with hopes, dreams, and possibilities.

The Lord knows me so well. He knows my fears, my inabilities, and my insecurities. He knows what I can and cannot do. I think about these two jobs, about which one is the better fit for me (personally and academically). I think about my needs (financial), and I consider long-term stability. Which is best, if there is a "best" to be had?

The Lord called me to apply to each position, of this I am certain. Why a non-faculty and a faculty position? Why the choice? Granted, it is not like I get to choose which position to take -- I haven't even been selected for an interview. I am thinking that the Lord is offering me two paths to take. The one leads me away from teaching and into faculty/program administration. The other keeps me in teaching. Is one better than the other? Probably so. Is one more preferred? I think yes. 

As I weigh the pros and cons of each, I see the Lord's hand print on this process. You see, I have vacillated before, between types of "work" and the Lord has graciously given me opportunities to try on "different hats." Yes, I have tried on various hats over the course of the last 5-6 years. Each hat had its good and bad aspects. Each hat stretched me in a different way. Now, I must choose which way to go because there can be no turning back. I must walk one way only.

Administration is a good fit for my skills, my experience, and my education. It pays well, and it is a stable job. It offers the opportunity to settle down, to get situated into a role that I could do for the rest of my working career. It wouldn't tax me like teaching (the emoting part kills me). It would be an easy 40 hour work week (not that the work wouldn't be challenging, because it would). No days off, no summers off. It would be 12-month with vacation and holidays, of course, but no extended breaks. In some ways, the routine is comforting. The idea of being in a job where I know what to do every day, can control the outcomes, and can use my skills to their best, is inviting to me.

The teaching position fulfills a life long dream of mine to be a Professor. I have been teaching for two years, and while there are aspects I love, I have to admit that it drains me. I struggle to make ends meet, and I find that I am worn out daily. Plus, the instability of the job is tough for me. I need the money, the benefits, and the steady work. Adjunct and non-tenure positions are a come and go business. If the school doesn't like you, then you are out. The benefits of weeks off during summer, holidays and breaks is enticing, especially since I am so tired all the time. But the pay is low, and the variable schedule, while appealing, is temporary. The workload will be grueling, the task daunting, and the challenge to emote draining for me.

Which road do I choose?

In the past, I have been presented with several options like this before. I have been asked to choose the easy way or the hard way. Twice now, I have chosen the hard way. I purposely chose the hard way because the hard way proved a shorter duration (like ripping the Band-aid off quickly -- pain, but then it is over!) Plus the hard way netted huge character development, strength, and dependency upon the Lord. In short, I took the hard way, and I grew to depend on the Lord, I survived some mighty battles, and while bruised and battered, I endured. Good choices...

Now, I am thinking if it is in my best interest to continue the hard way or should I take the open door that leads to the easy road. I mean, why not? The easy road might be a refreshing change of pace, might provide a different kind of challenge to me. I don't know. I am not sure.

My stubborn head and heart like to get knocked about, like to do things the hard way. I have been this way since I was a child -- choose experience over instruction. Most of the time, the lessons learned have been instrumental to shaping me, to developing my character, and to building endurance and perseverance. Yes, there has been value in those choices.

Now, though, it seems the Lord is offering me a different path to take, an easier path, and I am second-guessing His provision. I am saying to Him, "really, Lord?" What are you doing, Lord? Why are you letting me choose this time around? Can't you just provide a job that fits me and that meets your criteria? Oh, I pray it is so, I pray it is so.


Two paths lay ahead. One is easy, and one is difficult. One will meet my needs with sufficiency, while the other will challenge my determination and my abilities. One seems practical, one seems impractical and impossible. One will give me rest, peace, and time to focus, to recharge, to relax. One will keep me straining at the bit, working hard to overcome, and stressed to perform well. One is a perfect fit. One is not. 

The decision has been made.

Yes, Lord, I see your point. I see your wisdom, your provision, and your grace. I see your way, your hand, and your will. I will take the easy way today. I will take the way of least resistance, and I will trust you to navigate the waters filled with unknowns, with details, and with challenges (temporary). I will rest in your security, and I will know that you have made this way possible. I thank you, Lord, and I pray that you will provide everything I need to accomplish your will in my life. You are God, you know my coming and my going. You know what I can and cannot do, so therefore, I rest in the security of your provision and your grace. Selah!


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