March 18, 2016

Feeling Stressed

Happy Friday, good folks! It is March 18, and today is the last day before Spring Break begins. I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to the time off. I have oodles to do, and the week off will be a blessing to me. Right now, I am thinking about the plans, what must be completed, and what other items need to be added to my ever expanding list. I know the Lord has me well covered, yet still, I am feeling so anxious about where I am, what I am doing, and whether or not, I am doing things "right."

I didn't sleep well last night. I had dreams about missing classes, not being able to get dressed and out the door, etc. These types of dreams are symptomatic of my current feelings -- anxious, worried, stressed. Whenever I dream about situations where I cannot make a class, I miss a deadline, or I am stuck trying to get someplace, there is always a corresponding real-life situation that is causing me stress. It seems my brain is working during the overnight to try and help me come up with a solution. In the end, though, because I am not resting, I don't feel refreshed nor do I feel particularly like I have solved the problem. Sigh!

I am still worried over my experience on Monday and how the department is scrutinizing my efforts. I know that I am not the only one being scrutinized, and I know that much of this is prompted by the upcoming HLC review. Still, it is very uncomfortable being probed. I know I shouldn't have anything to worry about, but the problem is that I didn't receive any warning -- just a dash in -- and then a talking to about my performance. It was all very sudden like and with rush, which concerns me. I have never made any major mistakes. I mean, sure I have made little goofs along the way, but the way this was handled made it seem like I am about to be kicked to the curb. I know the Lord has a good plan for me, and I know that He will provide a job for me -- long term. I just didn't expect to be treated the way I was without any warning or notice. It does seem unfair to me. But then again, I am adjunct, part-time, and I guess I am expendable.

My heart has not settled since then, even though I have tried to look at the situation with honesty and fairness. I have tried to react and to act professionally despite what happened. I feel under pressure to perform to an unknown standard, and as a result, I am struggling to make sense of everything. Again, He is my ROCK, and as the word says, when I am afraid, "lead me to the rock that is higher!"

Unknown Outcomes

I know that no one enjoys these types of problems and approaches to them. I know that no one likes to be called on the carpet. I think the issue is that I don't like to fail. I don't like to make mistakes. I don't like to show my "cards" (my weaknesses). It is pride, really, and that is a sin (when it gets out of balance). I am very jealous of my reputation, and as such, I try very, very hard to manage my expectations and my outcomes. I have always been this way, even as a child, and when I do fail, when I do come up short, I tend to handle it in one of two ways. If I made the mistake knowingly, then I take it in stride, consider it a life lesson, and I move on. If I made the mistake unknowingly, then I cycle down into reflection, and I try hard to understand how I could have misread the situation, missed clues, etc. In short, I try to figure out what I did, and why I did it. I do this with both ways, but the second tends to probe deeper, seek a darker analysis whereas the other way simply accepts that the steps were part of my "trial and error" approach. I guess you could say as long as I consider the event part of the learning process, then I am okay with messing up. But, when I feel like I know what I am doing, well then, then I struggle with the whys and hows of the error. I think what compounds the problem is when the mistake is made public. It is one thing to make mistakes and discover them yourself. It is quite another to make mistakes and have the public discover them. It is embarrassing, and when we are embarrassed, usually we also feel guilty and shamed.

This is how I feel today. Shame and guilt are ploys of the devil, and I know that so much of what I feel, is wrapped up in his attempt to destroy me. He wants me to feel so bad that I lose all joy in teaching, that I jump ship and seek other types of employment. Furthermore, he wants me to stop leaning on and trusting the Lord. In short, he wants me to go my own way out of fear. He wants me to believe the lie that I am an awful teacher, that I have gone against policy, and that I am in the wrong place with my life. Yes, he wants me to give up the plans the Lord has for me, to forgo my calling, and to crawl into a place of disillusionment, disappointment, and despair.

When I write it out like this I clearly see his tactics, and I see exactly how I feel today. My feelings align with his tactics so I know that I am being oppressed for this purpose. My response is to take up my shield of faith and lift up the sword of the Spirit and stand. I must stand in faith against the assault and the accusations of the enemy. Thus, today, I choose to stand. I will not be defeated. The Lord goes before me, and since He is my VICTOR AND MY CHAMPION, I have overcome. He has overcome, and because He lives within me, I have overcome. The enemy can do nothing to me so long as I don't allow it. I control this outcome, and the easiest way out of it is to stand my ground and say "go away!"
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4 NASB)
Moving Forward Despite my Feelings

Therefore, today, I am choosing to move ahead despite how I feel. When we pick up our shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, we are saying to ourselves and to others, "I will not be defeated. I will not lose hope in the Lord." My hope and my faith are in Him alone, thus when I think about fear of the unknown, I must remember the words of David in Psalm 146:3 NLT:
Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.
My confidence is not in human beings, in people who are powerful or in positions above me. No, my hope, my trust, and my confidence is in the Lord. Thus, I can say with the psalmist in verse 2:
I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
It is difficult to face uncertainty. It is difficult to overcome these feelings, but I must do it. I must press on, and I must move into the position the Lord has for me. Until He has me settled, I must plod on. And, I must accept that I will make mistakes. I will goof up. How I handle those mistakes, those goofs, will be testimony to my character. I will humbly accept what others say about me. I will know when I have erred, and I will take responsibility for it. I will seek to do the right thing always, and even when it hurts me or my feelings, I will still choose righteousness. I will choose to do things His way and only His way. God is good. He has saved me. He is protecting me from harm. He will see me through this outcome as well as every other outcome out there. He will take me by the hand and lead me on. I am trusting in Him this good, good day. He is good, so very good to me.

Doing the Right Thing Always

What does it mean to be righteous? What does it look like, righteousness, I mean?

The dictionary defines righteousness as "acting in accord with divine or moral law" (Merriam-Webster). In Biblical terms, righteous refers to being free from guilt or from sin. N.T. Wright explains it this way, he says, righteousness is not abstract justice or virtue, but rather it is seen "as right standing and consequent right behaviour, within a community." This suggests that when we behave rightly, it is because of our right standing with God. Our righteousness, the only righteousness we possess, is because of what Christ has done for us on the cross -- securing our right standing before God.  It is thought the cross, and the miracle of salvation that we are able to stand or 'act' in accordance with the moral law of God. Christ imputed His righteousness to us and with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit we are able to live righteous lives.
Looking good is not better than doing good. Become a leader who does the right thing regardless of popularity ~ John Mariotti
As I think about my experience this past week, I realize that my mistake was simply allowing myself to become overly focused on my exam process. I made the mistake of being sloppy, and I was called out for it. I was sloppy because I spent all my time, my energy, and my focus on preparing for and passing my qualification exams. I see this now, and I realize that I made a choice back in January, and that choice was to do whatever was necessary to pass my exams. I devoted more hours to study and preparation than necessary, however, the outcome was assured. I studied really, really hard, and in the end, I passed my exams.

In hindsight, had I studied less intensely, I probably would have spent more time reviewing the grades that my students received. I would have not made mistakes that got my performance noticed. I made a choice -- study to pass my exams and advance to candidacy or study less, take my chances, and give more attention to my students and their assessment. In the school's eyes, I made a poor choice. I should have put the needs of my students ahead of my own personal goals and ambition. In my eyes, I made the right choice in that I put the Lord's plans ahead of my needs and those of my students. I knew I had to pass my exams, so I committed all my effort to seeing this task completed. The solution may have been to teach fewer sections, but the trade off was in income, so I opted to do what I thought was best -- teach three sections of the same course -- and hope for the best.

Did I really err? I don't think so. I mean, not really. I agree that I gave some students too high of a grade. I also regret that some of my IA's student evals weren't reviewed carefully. This was clearly my fault as I am responsible for the course evaluations even when they help me grade papers. Now, I am being reviewed, and so my only course forward is to do the right thing. Admit the mistake I made and understand why it occurred. Then, make adjustments for future and move on.

I have already admitted my mistake. I have already accepted responsibility. I have made adjustments going forward, and now I must move on. I believe I am doing the right, the ethical and moral thing, and that my behavior aligns with the Word of God. Proverbs 11:3 AMP states,
The integrity and moral courage of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.
And again in verse 27,
He who diligently seeks good seeks favor and grace, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.
As long as I seek His favor and His grace, then I am doing the right thing. Thus, I let these feelings go today, and I rest in His sufficiency. I know He will guide me through the trials of life with integrity and moral courage. I know He will make my way smooth. I am looking today for His favor, His blessing, and His grace. I ask Him to see me through, to shelter me as I travel on this path of life, and to provide for me every necessary thing this good, good day. He is good, He alone is good, and I trust Him with every fiber of my being. Amen. So be it. Thy will be done! Selah!

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