October 15, 2015

Thinking Again

It is Thursday, and I am at home (again!) I am amazed at how quickly the week seems to pass. I know the cycle of events, the days, run at a steady pace (praise be to God), but it does seems like the weeks pass by faster once school is in session. Perhaps it is because I am so busy, and I have so many tasks that require my focus and attention. I work from from to-do list to another, from one goal sheet to the next. It seems that my focusing ability is narrow at this time of the year (in spring and fall), and as a result, I am not aware of the hours as they tick by. Yes, time just appears to be moving faster than it really is. Interesting thought to ponder...

This morning, I went over to ACU as is my normal routine. I didn't have anything planned because I had already decided to give my students a break. They had a partial week off earlier (Monday and Tuesday) so really I didn't want to start a new section and have one day to present it. I decided to give them a "research day" along with a short research project. Thus, their research day should get them motivated to make some progress on their final paper (due at the end of the semester). As I left campus, I was feeling down, depressed and disappointed with the progress of these students. I struggle to teach this class, and while I feel I am trying my best to present good content, to teach them about communications, I simply do not see any growth. It is such a challenge to me, week in and week out, to try and make a difference in the lives of these students. Perhaps it is just the course or the curriculum. Perhaps it is my approach. I just don't know. I pray about it often, but still I struggle to see any improvement, any interest, any desire. My students just don't get what this class is all about and they struggle to make sense of the curriculum. I should say that I didn't design it. My boss did, and he wants this class to be his way. I understand it, really I do, but I have tried to teach this class his way, and once again, I am failing. I am not my Chair. I don't have his style or capabilities. I simply don't do things his way, and that I think, is the crux of the problem.

Human Understanding

Human understanding as compared with God's understanding is a key lesson for me. I have been struggling with learning how to do things His way for a while now. I am agreeable, willing most of the time, and even interested and dedicated to the pursuit of His way. Yet, I feel that the more I try to do it His way, the more I falter. The life lesson is, of course, that the only way you can do it His way is to let Him do it. Let me explain...

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT, 
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
This proof text sits hard for me as it is a reminder that the work I do for Christ is not something I can ever boast about or in. I cannot take credit for the things the Lord does through me. No, I must always defer because I know that all the good things I do have been inspired and influenced by the Power of God in my life. Therefore, as I teach, the good teaching that comes through me occurs when Christ is in control. When I feel weak, powerless, and I give in to those feelings of inadequacy, then I attempt to do the work in my own strength. The outcome is less than satisfactory to me. I feel like a failure. Why? Because I am trying to do work, God-work, in my own strength, through my own abilities, and on the decision of my own measure of wisdom.

Paul reminds the Corinthian believers that none of them were called to Christ because of their wisdom or power. They all came to Him in the same way, and the purpose in that calling was to demonstrate the power of God in them and through them so that others would know and recognize the Savior, Jesus Christ. The foolish things were chosen to shame the wise. Therefore, God does it all, in and through each believer, in order to demonstrate His marvelous grace, power, and authority over all of His creation. Selah!

This week, this lesson has come home to me, so to speak. I struggled early on, over the past couple weeks, with doubts and with feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty. On Sunday, our guest pastor referenced Habakkuk 1-3 and provided a roadmap through our uncertain days. In essence, he laid the groundwork for understanding uncertainty in life, and provided a direct method for handling the difficult circumstances we face in life. Then Monday, I made a breakthrough of sorts, and I reunited my purpose, my calling, with my work. I began to see God's hand in my life, and I found clarity in my focus, in my determination, and in my diligence to remain faithful to my calling. Tuesday, was a turning point for me. I was home all day, what a blessing, and through rest, I was able to get a handle on some of the major tasks I will be facing down the road (mostly for Regent). I also made some progress in understanding how to teach my composition students more effectively, and I felt more bold in leading them through the rest of the semester. Wednesday, however, was a crash day. Yes, I crashed. I am not sure why, but I believe it was a spiritual attack that knocked me back to my knees. Was it my pride, my exuberance, my arrogance? I am not sure, but I felt depleted by the days end. I crawled home, and I so wanted to give up, to give in again. My evening study call (for Regent) was a nice cap, and it helped to reorient my focus back to my studies. Still, I woke today feeling beaten down, tired, and weary at the work load ahead of me. Then came my class at ACU today, and wham! It was just another reminder of my inadequacy, and my inability to figure this "one" out.

Making Connections

As I sit here now and blog, I am thinking about how these separate events connect. I mean, they do connect, there is a pattern here, something to be learned -- I am just struggling to figure it out. I am wondering why this has happened, why I make good strides only to be knocked down to the point where I must begin again. I wonder about it...

I saw this meme posted on Facebook yesterday, and I chuckled briefly. I mean, I get it, I really do. But in truth, I think that I don't like the back and forth motion very much. I don't consider it a dance step nor do I think it is bodes well for optimism. Optimism means "hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something." To me, being optimistic means to understand that our faith is not in things, people, or even places, but our hope rests only upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. Yes, our hope securely rests in Jesus.

While I will admit the idea is a cute one, cha-chaing or line dancing could be perceived as a way to remain hopeful, but to me, this metaphor doesn't really work because stepping forward and backwards simply keeps you moving, but not necessarily forward. Sometimes you are moving backwards or even just in place (like treading water). The optimist might say "well, at least, you are not drowning!" True, but how long can a person tread water before their limbs give out and they sink under the water? Five-ten-twenty minutes? I had to tread water for 30 minutes to get my Red Cross badge once. It was a killer, but then I was 14, and much stronger and more fit, especially as a swimmer. Today, I could probably make it for 5 minutes (the required time now at Level 6 fitness), but not 30.

Optimism is then defined more along the lines of Psalm 25, verses 1-3:

O Lord, I give my life to you.
I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Making Sense of it All

I struggle at times to make sense of it all. I mean, I get it, really I do, but I fail to make the connection to the larger life lesson. I guess that is why this blog is so important for me. I need to write out my thoughts and in doing so, I am able to glean the truth as I process my experiences. It is this "processing" that matters to me most. I need to process the details, the events, and then see how they fit into the puzzle of my life. Do they connect right away or must I set them aside and wait for the "connector" pieces to be revealed?

Often, the missing pieces are events, people, and other influential factors that haven't taken place in my life. They are future connections, and without them, I am not able to put the puzzle together. Thus, there is always a hidden portion of our life, the mystery part that is tied to the future, that causes us to be confused. What will happen tomorrow? Where will I be or go to do work? When will I find out which way to go? These questions cannot be answered because they all reside within a future time. Still, we worry about them, we focus on them, and we try to answer tomorrows questions with today's knowledge. It simply will not work. We will not be able to glean insight from a future that has yet to take shape. We must wait. We must be patient. We must use our manna, our skills, and our abilities as we have them today. Selah!

I sit here today and I ponder this truth. I wonder how much happier I would have been had I learned this lesson 10-20 or even 30 years ago. To be happy, to be settled, to be content -- what joy, what relief, what amazing rest -- I would have had! Instead,  I worried, I doubted, and I panicked over unknown circumstances, future details, and hidden thoughts. Had I simply rested, let go, and allowed the Lord to be LORD over my days, my details, and my delights, perhaps I would have been less stressed, more at peace. Perhaps. Perhaps.

The connector for me today is this lesson -- that life is uncertain, the future is unknown -- and our only Navigator through it all is the Lord Jesus Christ. I can try to figure it all out, to get all my ducks in a row, but in the end, there will always be missing, hidden future pieces. There are pieces of information that cannot be known today. I must accept this fact, I must accept that I can only make do with the manna that is given for today. It is enough. It is good enough to satisfy my needs today.

The Lord gives to me His grace, and in His grace, I find sufficiency. I can handle whatever concerns me today because His grace is sufficient for today. I may not know what will be tomorrow or even how I will handle tomorrow, but I can know for sure, for certain, that He will handle my life today. I am good, I am good, I am good.

The Lord gives me so much. I am a recipient of His grace and favor. I have His strength. I have His vitality. "I can do all things," as Paul said once to the Philippians, "through Christ who strengthens me." I have need of nothing more than Christ. He is my all-in-all, my sufficiency and my hope. Selah!

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