March 28, 2016

The Day After

It is a good Monday morning. The day looks to be turning out well for me. So far, I have been made my cup of coffee, fetched the morning news paper, cleaned the kitchen up a bit, and even started the laundry -- all -- before 8 a.m. WHEW! It is a good morning, for certain, with clear skies and a cool breeze, signaling a cooler day for today. I am excited to be heading back to campus after a week off. I don't know what to expect, but I feel confident that today will be a good day. Well, I am thinking positively about it, and that counts for something for sure!

God is good, so very good, and while my past couple weeks have been a bit hit or miss, I have to remember that I am not the one to blame for what has happened. No. Regardless of my past performance or my inability to do this or to do that -- my students success or failure is solely dependent on their performance in class. I may feel responsible, and at times, I do. But, really, whether a student learns, shows up, applies themselves, studies and then performs is 100% in their control. I can lead, mentor, and instruct, but my students must do the work. If they fail to do the work, then they fail. It is simple. I don't want them to fail. I see no reason to fail, yet for many students, they feel they are entitled to receive a passing grade, a good grade, without even paying attention to the work.

My heart wants to see each of my students succeed, yet this semester has been such a challenge for me. I have taught the same material as in previous semesters, and this time around, I have students who do not care, do not give any time or thought to the material, and who would rather barely pass than attempt the work I ask of them. It is their choice, their choice, always. I wish it weren't so, but I cannot help it. I know the difference between students who can write and who cannot. I know the difference between students who struggle with language, and students who have no issue other than laziness.

This past week, I rested. I took the week off to rest, and while I didn't rest as much as I should have -- like as in -- really resting, I did recover from my previous weeks of high stress. I had hoped to make great progress on my dissertation. I had hoped to be further along in the process, but instead, I am right where I am or I should say, right where I left off before the break. I was feeling down about my lack of progress, but today, I thought, "Why?" I mean, why should I feel so down. I am the one who determines when I will graduate. I am the one who is in the driver's seat on this last project. If I want to take a week off, so be it. If I want to rest, I can do so. No one pushes me without my consent. No one tells me what to do, save the Lord Himself.

Really, I think I have lost my nerve of late. I mean, I let someone in my department push me around, and I didn't like it. I allowed their comments to change my game plan. I took their words to heart, and I listened to them -- but in the end -- I struggled to make sense of them because they didn't make sense. I mean, not really. Instead, I took them as criticism against me personally, and against my teaching style. I took them as words mean to hurt and not heal. Words that didn't serve any purpose but to cause me to stumble.

Today, I regain my composure. I regain my strength, and I march forward. I know what I can and cannot do. I know where I lack, and in truth, I don't need anyone to tell me what they think I should or shouldn't do. I welcome feedback, of course, and I am not saying I am perfect or without any failing. No, not at all. But what I am saying is that people in your life will, at times, call you out, criticize you, and make you feel small for many reasons. However, just because they say things to you or about you doesn't make them true. Furthermore, just because someone is saying something about you, doesn't mean you have to listen to it, especially if what they are saying is not true. I made this mistake two weeks ago. I let someone make statements about me that weren't true, and as a result, I listened to them and gave them ear. I should have rejected them outright, took control and made my stand, but I didn't. I allowed the enemy to take ground from me simply because I didn't stand up and say "Go away! I reject your condemnation in the Name of Jesus!" Yes, I should have shouted the words of Paul found in Romans 8:1 NIV:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I am not condemned by God. I am condemned by my enemy who seeks only to hurt, to wound, and to destroy my confidence and my faith in the Lord. Whenever I give way, he takes ground. Whenever I do not stand against his accusations, he takes more and more advantage of me. This is why it is vital for Christians to know the truth, and to understand that the truth has set them free. Jesus came that we may have life, and that the life He gives to us is abundant and full (John 10:10). Jesus came to set the captives free, to release the chains of death that bound us to hell (Isa. 61:1). We are free, we are free, indeed (John 8:36).

Truth Seeking

I realized this morning that much of what I struggle to comprehend is the truth, the truth about my life and the truth about the plans the Lord has for my life. I blog almost every single day, and as such, I write a lot of posts in a year. Since 2004, when my blog first began, I have written over 1600 posts, mostly about my life, my reflection of my life, and my feelings and interpretations regarding the events in my life. My blog truly is a spiritual journal whereby I explore my life within the context of Scripture in order to understand how and when and why things happen to me. I guess you could say that I seek the truth, always, and even when the truth is painful, I still want to know and to understand it.

The past couple weeks, I have experienced a new level of truth. I have come to terms with some things in my life that have helped me to understand more about my desires, my wants, and my needs. I have come to see my life in its full spectrum of colors, and frankly, not all of those colors are "pretty." No, some of the colors that make up the tapestry of my life are dark, are brownish-black, and not so colorful. Yet, these colors when set side-by-side with other colors work together to create a beautiful picture of a life redeemed, a life born of grief and circumstances. God has created something beautiful from the ashes of my life, and for that, I am thankful. I am grateful, and I am in awe of His marvelous and majestic ability to create life from the dust, the dirt, the refuse that is around Him. He is good, always so very good. He gives life, and He gives it abundantly. Praise God for His goodness, His mercy, and His grace!

Gleanings of Truth

As I marvel at His goodness, I recognize that there are some issues in my life that need clarification. I have learned some truth this past week, and as a result, I am thinking more clearly about what I am to do and where I am to do it.

  1. I realize that as much as I enjoy teaching college, there are aspects to this profession that I don't like (namely, the politics and the pressures to perform that come from management)
  2. I understand that while I may be in control of much of my life, the choices I make often are insignificant to the overall plan the Lord has for me
  3. I accept the fact that even when I try my best, I will fail still to do what is right or best.
  4. Lastly, I grasp that my desires and wants do align with His most of the time, but there are some desires that are clearly mine, and some desires that are clearly His. I need to learn which is which and choose His over mine each and every time.
Furthermore, as I pause and consider my life, I realize that I am where I am today because of choices I have made in the past. Some of these choices were good ones, in my best interest, and others were desires that I wanted to come to pass. For example, I believe that the desire to teach English was my desire. I have had this desire for years, literally years, and while I do believe the Lord allowed me to experience teaching English, I now understand that the desire in my heart was my own, and not His. This doesn't mean that I am pursuing my own way, just that the desire to teach English was of my creation. The Lord allowed me to pursue this desire, and I am here today as a result. My path to teaching has been blessed, but it has not been easy. I have struggled. I have given up so much to learn how to teach, and frankly, the cost-benefit has been very low. The return on investment has been very, very low. But, I have learned this valuable skill. I have learned how to teach students, how to engage them, and I have learned what it is like to teach college-level English classes. This path has been filled with trial, with challenge, and with a never-ending stream of experiences (both positive and negative). In all, I feel as though I have overcome, but not without a hard fight. I have had to fight against myself, my own doubts, and my own frailty to achieve a modicum of success. It has been a hard path to follow, but I have learned many good things. I just wonder if this had been His desire, had the outcome been different?

Similarly, the desire to study communication at Regent, well, that was His desire. I had no interest in studying communication at all, yet there was this spark in my heart that seemed to be saying to me "consider this, think about this course of study." I considered it, and in time, I came to see that the Lord wanted me to study communication. I followed this desire, and here I am today, about ready to graduate with a PhD. Clearly, my path through Regent has been blessed. My study has been phenomenal, life-changing, and wonderful. It also has been easy -- not as in "no effort" -- but rather as in stress-free, boundless, and filled with achievement after achievement. Yes, this path, this choice has been productive, blessed, and filled with advancement all because it was His choice, His desire.

Thus, there are two paths always set before us: His way and our way. I choose His way, always, yet it has been difficult to distinguish between my wants and His wants, His desires and my desires. I have come to see that sometimes the two are intwined, and that He gives grace to enable us to pursue both. Sometimes He wants us to see the outcome of our choice so that we can understand how much better His way, His desires, and His wants are for us.

Today, I have come to see that there are different outcomes based on the opportunities He places before us. We choose the way to go, and while He blesses our way, we don't always experience the best outcome unless we choose the best way to go (His way). As I think about this now, I realize that my life has many options to it. I can choose A, B, or C and they all will produce results. Some will produce higher quality results, and some will produce mediocre results. I will be offered options like these throughout my days, and to make the best decisions I must always consider His wants first and foremost. If I follow after what He wants, I can be assured of a positive and high yield result. If I follow after what I want, then I will receive less than desired or expected. The choice is up to me, but the smart approach is always to choose the path that God wants for me rather than the path that I want for me.

The good news is that it is never too late to switch tracks, to let go of my wants in favor of His wants. I am ready today to switch tracks, to choose His way, His desires, and His wants over my own interests. I want His best for my life -- in every area -- and I know in choosing what He wants, my life will indeed be blessed. It will be blessed. Selah (pause, and calmly think about it)!

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