It is the start of the work week, and frankly, I am tired and I am stressed. Equally. I didn't sleep well last night. I am stressed for the day today. The combination is really getting to me, and I while I do know why this is so, I cannot figure out what to do about it. I feel so stressed right now, and that feeling is making me think or rethink everything. I am reevaluating my life, my perspective, my path -- all because I am feeling this burning sensation that says to me "something is not right, something is not aligned." I wish I could figure it out. I am praying for the Lord to help me understand why I feel the way I do, and then to tell me what to do about it. Until I receive revelation on that matter, I will remain faithful. I will keep on trusting Him, and I will stand fully clothed in the armor of God. Yes, I will stand up, fully ready to battle my enemy.
It is a weird feeling, really. I mean, I have this gnawing in my gut, and a great sense of apprehension. Instead of feeling His peace, His calm, and His control, I have this sense of fear that today is not going to go well. I don't know how this has happened, and I don't know why now, all of a sudden, I am experiencing this kind of strain on my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. I am guessing it is straight on oppression, you know, from the enemy who is determined to destroy me or to destroy any measure of peace or joy I receive from my relationship with the Lord. I know that we are not supposed to linger in these places, but rather we are to be bold, to be courageous, and to stand in VICTORY. Yet, today, I am tired. I am worn out. I feel the nub at the end of this very long road. I want to rest. I want to be finished. I want the summer to get here so I can just let all this go.
Making Some Progress
Yesterday was absolutely a beautiful day for me. Not only did I enjoy a blessed and wonderful message at my church, but I also was able to make significant progress on my dissertation project. Yes, I actually started to put my first three chapters together into a semblance of order. I have lots of writing to do, mostly to mesh all the content together so it flows, but it was so helpful to see how much I really had ready. I didn't think I had as much, almost 40 pages of a 65-70 page document. I am really, really blessed.
I need to do a lot of work still, but now I have a road map. My department didn't give any direction on how to format the proposal. Supposedly there is a format or written guideline for students, but I couldn't find it online. I googled, and I found several examples of social science dissertations and realized that they are all pretty standard in format. Of course, there will be specifics when it comes to publishing and such, but for the section headers in each chapter, they do follow a set standard. Now, at the least, I know what I need as before I was clueless. I was writing content but not really knowing where it would go or how it would fit into the overall project. Sigh!
My goal this week is to rewrite my chapter one: introduction for clarity and conciseness. I have about 11 pages and I need closer to 20 before I can submit it for review. Some of it is already finished, but there are a few parts that are compilations of my colleagues research (from our pilot study). I need to rewrite everything in my own words so that this is original research. I struggled a bit with using content from our pilot study project, but once I realized that much of what we wrote a year ago is standard fare, meaning that it is the same information I will need to include in my project. I just need to cover the same territory (history, background, framing, etc.) with my own words, language and style.
My prayer is that this project blesses and honors the Lord. It is my intention to submit all my work for His praise and glory so that means that I will take no credit for this work, other than to accept the attribution as author. In truth, the Lord is the author and finisher of this work. I simply must move through the steps and finish the work per His instructions. I believe He will guide me, direct my steps, and permit me to receive this honor, this recognition when the time comes. Until then, I trust Him for the process, the timing, and the outcome.
I have decided that the blows of discouragement are the root cause of my anxiety and panic today. Yes, I have recognized their tell-tale signs, and I see how prevalent and persistent these signs can be. Firstly, I struggle with self-esteem issues (always have), and there is a big part of me that believes that I am not worthy nor able to do any good thing. I don't mean to say that with false humility, but in truth, I have always believed that I wasn't very good at anything. I was labeled a failure in school as a child, a silly and bubble-headed little girl at home, and later in my professional life, a flighty and scattered worker. Now, of course, I am a professional educator, and I have proven to myself and others that none of those labels is accurate or true. I am successful at school, logical and ordered in my studies, and very organized when it comes to my work. Still, those labels sit with me, and in times of stress, I feel compelled to give in to them. This is especially true when I receive some criticism from a peer or supervisor. I take their words to heart, and whether they mean them for good or for worse, I do listen to them. In some cases, the words are justified and I take full responsibility for my actions or lack of actions, and I move on. But, other times, when the criticism seems to come from left-field or isn't representative of anything particular, well, it is so hard for me to move on, to let go, to get over it. You see, I take things like words said in haste to heart. I sit with them, think about them, ruminate on them because I want to make sure that if I am at fault in any way, shape or form, then I must be honest to accept the criticism as such. It is my integrity, my sense of rightness, and of course, His sense of righteousness at play. I want to be honorable before all men as the word commands. I want to do my best, to reflect Christ in every area of my life, and as such, I want to take to heart any issue or concern a brother or sister may have. I guess the point is that I struggle with doubts, and I often will cycle down into a semi-depressive state simply based upon words said to me by someone who may or may not have had my best interest at heart.
Secondly, I know I should just "blow it off," but I cannot do that so easily. I feel compelled to remain where I am and to suffer under this condemnation for a time. Perhaps it is the Lord's will for me. Perhaps it is to humble me, to keep me mindful not to allow pride to have any influence over my life. Perhaps it is to show me that my idealistic picture of the world must be replaced with the reality that not everyone you meet who says they are a Christ-follower is really a Christ-follower. Many people wear the label, but they don't walk after Him. They do not take the mission and vision of God seriously to the point of letting it be the transforming agent in their life. I see this, I recognize that this is so; it is just that my heart suffers under the weight of this experience. I so want to start over again. I so want to repeat that day, to behave differently, to see a different outcome. Unfortunately, there is no turning back, no way to "do over" the event. I must let the outcome come to pass, and I must do what I can to move forward in my life.
Out of the Fire Comes Relief
Yes, sometimes the only way through a situation like this is to walk through the fire and come out more refined on the other side. I feel like this has been a trial by fire experience for me, and as I have blogged about it before, I believe that this experience is critical for my development. I believe the Lord is calling me to ministry, and that He plans to have me work in ministry at such a level where I will be open to scrutiny, to observation, and to criticism. I have to be able to take this kind of attack and not run for cover at every twist and turn. I have to learn how to stand my ground, to defend myself, and to lean upon the Lord for His help in times of crisis. I have to be able to deal with the discouragement, the disappointment, and the depression in ways that bring light and glory to my Lord.
Success Comes at a Price
I have been thinking about what it takes to be successful lately. You know, the world defines success in many ways, and I want to be successful in all my efforts. However, according to the world, success is measured in wealth, in position or in power. Yet, the word tells us that success is measured by God in other ways, mostly through character, conduct, and countenance. In short, God looks at the motivation of the heart, and not the product of our hands. Though we are encouraged to be diligent and dedicated workers, to be busy and to not live lives of idleness, we are also expected to be honorable people, filled with integrity, and seeking a higher authority than simply earthly attribution and praise. We are to seek to please God the Father, and to do that, we must know what pleases Him most.
I want to be successful in all my efforts. I want to do good work. I want to be paid a fair wage, and I want to live very simply and comfortably on the produce of my hands. My labor therefore should be compensated fairly and provide a measure of comfort so I can take care of myself and my family. I am not trying to be a "Donald Trump," a mega-mogul who owns the world. No, I am trying to do honest and good work that pleases my heavenly Father.
I have had the pleasure and the grimace to work in a number of Fortune 500 companies. Some of the experiences were good, pleasant and productive. Others, were not so nice. Yet, in all of these work places, I realized that what worldly companies seek after is not in line with what God says we should pursue. No, the two visions are vastly different, and as such, the type of work and the approach to that work is miles apart.
The sad part is that I have experienced similar disconnects when I have worked in the church and in Christian organizations. Sometimes, there is no difference between the two -- the world and the church -- look and function in eerily similar ways. This should not be, yet it is so often the case. In my current situation, it would be wrong to say that the school I teach at has lost that Christian vision and mission. Yet, clearly there are some elements at work that seem to be moving against the nature of Christ's work. I see it, I hear about it, and I wonder how this can be so. I struggle with this inconsistency in mission and vision, and with the approach that so often places numbers, statuses, etc. against that of the call to seek the lost, to minister to and to enfold the children of God. Yes, I struggle with approaches that take on a worldly emphasis and seem to consider God's way as less effective or important.
Perhaps this is why I am struggling today. Perhaps it is why this whole episode sits poorly with me. Perhaps it is my integrity, my ethics and my morals that have been called into question, and perhaps that is why I cannot let this go. Not yet, that is, not yet. I want to do the right thing always, and while I am flesh, flawed and human, and I do sin, I also believe in my heart that every attitude, every action must be submitted and yielded to the Lord so that He receives all praise, all honor and all glory. Thus, today, I accept this condemnation, not because of what I have done or not done, but rather I accept it because it is libeled against Him and not me. I accept it as persecution, and not oppression, and in order for my Lord to be honored and glorified, I must submit to it.
Today, I realized that what I am suffering with is persecution for your Name and not criticism or condemnation for anything I have done or left undone. My hearts desire is for you to receive honor and glory so I let this be, I let this pass. I submit to it, I yield my way, and I let this persecution overtake me for a time. I trust that you will be by my side, and you will see me through it just as you did with Daniel in the furnace and in the lion's den. You will not leave me nor will you forsake me to my enemies. You alone are worthy to receive all praise, all honor, and all glory, and I relent and I allow you to take this all. It is all for you, all for your Name, that I pray today. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!