March 4, 2016

Looking Back

It is Friday, and I am at home prepping for my afternoon classes. I am beat, really exhausted today, and I am feeling the tiniest bit of illness coming on. I woke up with a sore throat today and some chest congestion. I am hoping that this is not indicative of something more serious. I spent yesterday at the ball park with a friend from San Jose, CA, and while I had a great day, the heat and the direct sun did a number on my body. My prayer today is that I can relax in class, take a more laid-back approach, and enjoy my time without causing any extra stress right now. Sigh! Let's hope so...

What's Going On?

I woke up today feeling unwell. I had this oppressing sense that something was wrong, really wrong in my life. I couldn't put my finger on it, but there was this "doom and gloom" oppressive little cloud hanging over my head. I prayed about it first off this morning, and yet, it is still there. I wonder if it is something I have done -- like open a stronghold -- to give my enemy a point of attack. I just don't know, but I feel this way every so often, and usually it occurs when I am being attacked for reasons other than sin. I mean, I don't think I have sinned. Please don't read that wrong, folks, because what I mean is I don't think I have intentionally sinned. There is a difference, you know, between willfully sinning and the type that happens often without any knowledge or attention on your part. I realize that I may have said something, done something, or left something undone without really even thinking about it. Grrr. I am not sure what caused this feeling, but my gut tells me that it may coincide with the Lord's movement in my life. This may be true, especially since I recently confessed that I am letting go -- letting the worry, the stress, and the need to "know" everything -- GO! Perhaps this is what is generating this tension inside of me.

Then it is possible that my day out yesterday had something to do with it. I had a good visit with my friend, and I enjoyed our time together. I felt sort of odd all day, but when I had another fan turn around and comment on something I had said earlier, well the "oddness" went from a 10 to 100 "like that!" Let me explain...

So my good friend and I were discussing my research for my dissertation. I had shared briefly what I wanted to study and why, and for the most part, we were engaging in conversation on various points of interest. Then, all of a sudden, this man sitting in front of us, turned around and said, "Not that I was eavesdropping, but..." and began to tell me how I might want to look at this topic through a different lens. I politely listened as this man began to give me his opinion on my dissertation research -- suggesting as if -- my proposed plan was somehow not the "right way" to go. I thought it was odd that a stranger would TELL me about my research. This person had zero knowledge of the subject, and used no evidence to support his view. He simply wanted me to know that there was another way to "look" at my topic, and that my way, well, it wasn't the "only way." I listened, and when he finished stating his opinion, I thanked him for sharing his unorthodox "reading" of my research. Sigh!

Afterward, my friend and I laughed, but as I reflected on it, I realized that this guy was the typical uninformed stranger in the fold. He had some minor interest in the topic, a very poorly formed opinion on it, but the eagerness to share his view regardless of the validity of it.  I remember thinking (while he was telling me how wrong I was), "This guy is a bozo! He doesn't know how uneducated, unscientific, and unsubstantiated his opinion sounds!" Yes, my teacher-side wanted to come out and correct him by saying, "and what evidence do you have to support this view?" I do this with my students, so it was a natural response to this person. I mean, it doesn't matter what I think or what anyone else thinks, but it does matter that your opinions are backed up by evidence. If you just state what you believe without any support, then you are voicing opinion. You cannot say that it is authoritative or scientific unless you can cite some additional source that "supports" what you are saying.

I woke up today thinking about this exchange and how I chose not to engage this man simply because we were at the ball park, and it was a special day for me and my long-time friend. Still, there was part of me that wanted to set the record straight and say something snarky like "Oh, so you've read the current literature on the American megachurch?" Of course, he hadn't. He didn't know anything, and what he was saying was so out in left-field that it made no rational sense. I let it slide, just let it go because it wasn't worth defending. Yet, I still feel like something needed to be done, but I didn't want to cause a brouhaha right there at Scottsdale Stadium.

It is funny to think about it now, but just yesterday I asked the Lord to show me something to convince me that I am right where He wants me to be. You know, I struggle with feeling like I am doing the "right thing." There are days when I am absolutely convinced of it, and then there are other days, when I wonder "perhaps I need to do something else." Well, yesterday was one of those "I'll show you days." In all, I had three or four instances when my teacher/professor side came out of me. It didn't come out in a "whoa, look at me" kind of way, but rather it came out in normal conversation when I was sharing details about my life, my work, and my research. I realized in those moments that I am what I set out to be -- a scholar, a professor, a subject matter expert -- in my field. I realized that I cannot simply leave it all behind, not now, not after all this hard work. No, for better or for worse, I am a professor, and this is what I have worked so long and hard to achieve. I may never make the "big bucks," but the person I am today has been shaped and remade through the diligence and discipline of years of advanced study. I am this way because this is the way God has chosen for me to go. Selah!

Moving Forward

With this in mind, I realize today, this morning to be precise, that no matter what happens tomorrow, I am right where I belong, right where the Lord intends for me to be. Now, I know that I cannot go back. I cannot turn around and go anywhere but forward. You see, I have passed "go" and there is no return to the past, no return to another way. I am for all intents and purposes a "professor." Not a professor in the making, but a real professor, a real college instructor and teacher. I may not be as advanced as I like, but I am not where I was three years ago. I am in the middle of moving forward in my career, and I am settled on this way of life. I can do no other thing -- simply because of what I have become. My mind has been shaped, remade to fit that of a scholar, a person who engages in research and study. I cannot think "uncritically." I cannot state opinions without facts attached to them. I have to pursue this line now, to do my best, and to improve as I can -- all -- in order to become more and more a subject matter expert in this field. I see it now, I get it (finally) that this is the Lord's intended outcome for me. I have to go forward, not backward. I cannot stop now. I must pursue this course until I cross over the finish line.

The strangest part in all of this experience is the fact that just yesterday, I was questioning whether or not I was on the right path. I mean, with all my worry over debt and school loans and the rest, I often wonder it is in my best interest to continue on in this direction. Furthermore, as I ponder it, I wondered whether it was silly for me to even consider more study. I ask myself, "isn't it enough to have a PhD, Carol?" I mean, I am thinking (tentatively) about tackling seminary next, so my thoughts about "enough" are valid. I mean, who really needs to study semiotics and future studies? Yet, there I sat in that ballpark, listening politely to a man who clearly was trying to be something he was not -- an informed, educated, and knowledgeable person. All the while, I thought about all that I know, all that I have learned over the last couple years, and all the opportunity I have for future research studies. I mean, there was a chasm between us, and I was on the other side, the side of knowledge, research, and advanced study. I marveled at it because it wasn't but a couple years ago when I thought I would never be where I am today.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: when the Lord makes a way for you, it is "sin" to look at it as less than a merciful and grace-filled gift. I have done this -- and I did it yesterday. I looked down on the precious gift of knowledge, of study, of advancement to this career path -- when I should have been rejoicing and praising God for His amazing blessing of a new life, a new career, and a new future!

I think this is why I felt (or feel) oppressed today. I realize that God has created within me the desire to know things, to study things, and while I am not interested in "head knowledge" or in achieving status for my own good, whenever I look down on what the Lord has done in my life, I am in a way suggesting that my way was or is better than His. I regret that I have intimated this is so because I know that His way is always best. Yes, His way is best.

Today, I embrace who I am. God has made me this way, He has given me the desire to study at this level and to work in this career. I believe now that this is His will for my life. He put the desire into my heart, He warmed it and kept it steady through all those years of waiting, and now He has blessed me with the pursuit and fruition of His call on my life. I must not look back with disdain nor must I press on feeling "less than" ready to tackle the hurdles that are ahead of me. I am ready. I am poised. I can do this -- through Christ -- and I will overcome because He has already overcome in this world. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Selah!

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