Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Back in the Metaphysical Waiting Room

I was looking to make another education-related post today, but right now I need to vent a little bit. Just to warn any of you readers out there: if you don't like evangelicals discussing their faith, then you had better stop right here and move on, because I'm going there.

Right now I'm facing a rather important decision that will be decided in the next several days. The impact of the decision will in all likelihood change the way my life is currently heading in a fundamental way. The bad news? I really don't say in this decision. The worst part is that I've been in the exact same place before in my life on two occasions. In each case they caused a tectonic shift in my life, and unfortunately, in one case I'm just recovering from the ramifications of that event.

It doesn't help my natives are absolutely off the reservation in terms of their behaviour and performance in their class. The class I referred to in yesterday's post was quiet for the most part until shortly before the bell rang when two more students decided to fight. I managed to stop it with some help from two of my students (I really need to reward those guys, especially since they've gone from two of my biggest cut-ups to two students I can rely to complete their work in the past month.). They're already on lockdown for their general behaviour, and I'm scratching my head as to what needs to happen next.

As most of you know, I am a deeply religious person, though I tend to not dwell on it too much. Where I work, there are plenty of people who go to church regularly, but really don't act on what they hear on a daily basis. I'm not trying to act holier-than-thou, but I take my faith seriously and go out of my way to make sure the life others see me live matches what I hear in church and read and pray about on my own. Of course, it doesn't always happen that way, as I found out today in a rather amusing circumstance.

I admit I'm a horrible person when it comes to giving the circumstances of my life over to God for Him to take care of. Being someone who is ridiculously intelligent, I have a very bad habit of being able to solve problems without outside help. As is the case for people like me, God loves nothing more than pulling my hands off of the steering wheel of my life in order to make me trust Him more. I was feeling rather morose in my planning period today, and a good friend of mine was trying to cheer me up through some (well-needed) tough love. She commented how she thinks it's amazing for being such a devout person, I really have a problem with giving things to God for Him to take care of. I could only laugh ashamedly and admit it's something I'm not very good at, and is probably the reason I'm facing this situation.

It's uncanny how this situation I face is similar to what I went through at the beginning of my college career almost a decade ago. I rolled through high school with a near-perfect GPA and ACT scores, and went to a really great college for what (I thought) was my dream major. Due to winning a prestigious competition I had all of my tuition and fees covered... until during the winter break the university informed me I owed them $3100 in fees that my financial aid didn't cover. There was no way I could pay it during the break apart from bank robbery or wire fraud, so I returned to school that January only to sit out the week until my account went into default and I would be sent home. I went back because when I was in high school God showed me that He would take care of my college finances and I wouldn't need to worry about them--and to not take out any loans. I was just deluded enough to go back to school confident that God would do what he said He would do.

That week was pure Hell for me as the university got off to its normal schedule and I was stuck with nowhere to go. I tried my best to put on a brave face, but most of my time was spent on my bed crying my eyes out wanting to know why this was happening to me and gripped in terror at the fact my life was about to crash and burn in the most spectacular way possible. My parents called that Saturday and told me to be ready to come back home on Monday, so I should spend that Sunday telling my church good bye. I went to church looking like death warmed over, and in Sunday School I was the focus of the lesson as my friends and the professor that was our teacher prayed that however things went I'd end up for the better. Unbeknownst to me, as our teacher was praying, God told him quite clearly that I wasn't going home and to watch what was going to happen.

During the service I was called up to the podium and the pastor wanted to pray a prayer of blessing over me. Someone from the crowd asked how much I owed, and I sheepishly gave the total. Over the next minute the church spontaneously whipped out their chequebooks and raised an offering to keep me in school. I didn't know what to do, so I stood there dumbfounded. After church when I called my parents, they refused to believe me until the pastor called to tell them what happened. They came up the next day not to bring me home, but to make sure I was ready to go for the Spring semester. The experience changed my life because I saw that God moved in a definite way in my life in a fashion that simply couldn't be explained by normal means. Sure you could explain it away by mass empathy, but why would 50 people give $100 a piece to a person they didn't even know existed earlier that morning?

A year later, with my financial aid secure, I prepared for the Spring semester. My advisor told me in no uncertain terms that he would not allow me to proceed with my academic plan because in doing so he would be aiding someone in running away from the plan God had for them. I looked at him puzzled, and in a fit of insanity I believed him, and signed the paperwork he'd prepared to change my major from Aerospace Engineering to History. What neither of us knew was that in the deep fine print of my financial aid, in doing so voided all of my financial aid offers, and left me with a hefty bill for things the aid was supposed to pay, but now didn't have to. Once again I spent the first week of January sitting in my dorm room clinging to the hope that God would ride in to the rescue once again, because He had done it already. Though I was scared to death by the concept of leaving school, I was confident He would provide yet again. After all, I was too smart and successful to have a college career crash and burn.

The money never came.

My parents came and picked up a shell-shocked young man and packed all of his belongings into their car to bring home. To add insult to injury, the university dismissed me, but in the dismissal letter they listed my reasons for dismissal as "academic." As I would find out later, this would give me fits as I tried to get back into college. The best part was that I had attended a Christian university that constantly trumpeted the integration of faith into their culture. That made the hurt all the worse. For being ostensibly Christian, the manner of my leaving was anything but.

Once I was at home, I sought a quick way back into college to get on with my life. Instead, it began a five year journey of inexplicable spiritual drought and loneliness. From 2002 to 2007, no matter how hard I prayed, how much I read my Bible, or how many church services I went to, God did not speak to me. I had shriveled up to the point that all I could say what that I had resigned myself to the fact that it was my lot in life--which was awful Calvinist for someone who was raised and matured on Assemblies of God theology. To be honest it sucked hard and I really only got through it by sheer intertia; I was too stubborn to call it quits on my faith because I had seen and experienced too much for me to think it was all a sham. It was the worst time of my life, and every day I live I put more distance between me and that time.

Of course, by 2008 I was teaching in Franklin and this blog was up and running, so suffice it to say I got through it. What happened was that the spontaneous side of me was buried in an avalanche of cynicism and pessimism. I had ossified into someone who was intensly aware of my differences, and protected myself from others by settling into an immensely boring life. By December I had had enough with my life.

Most evangelicals would stop me right here and say the answer to my problem would be to just get closer to God or any of the other zillions of cliches they give as advice. The problem is that my relationship with God was fine--not the best around, but reading my Bible or jumping up and down during the song service wouldn't solve the problem. What I needed was a practical solution. This past December, I got it in a really odd situation where once again I made a completely irrational decision and decided to let the Loren that ran about and did all of these amazingly fun things growing up for the simple reason that he was mind-bogglingly curious out. Since then my life has made a 180-degree change for the better. It's been an exhilirating ride that I wouldn't give up for the world--and that's why I'm in the situation I'm in now.

If things don't go my way all of the ground I've gained in the last two months go up in smoke. The cynicism that I thought I had gotten rid of for good is back banging on the door--and it's getting louder and louder as the days go on. No matter how much my mentors have talked with me and told me it's going to turn out OK, and I'm just being paranoid about nothing, all I think about is that the last time I really stepped out in faith for something was when I changed my major back in late 2001... only to get kicked out of school, sent home, and plunged into soul-sucking loneliness and tedium. I've only really recovered from that recently, and I'm terrified it's all going to come back, stronger than before.

I was in one of those troughs this evening as I began this post, when iTunes coughed up a song by Hillsong United that kicked me square in the stomach. I'm not usually one for cutting edge praise and worship due to how a lot of it feels cheap and vapid, but when the chorus of Salvation is Here began, it stood out to me in a way that I desperately needed to hear:

'Cause I know my God saved the day
And I know His word never fails
And I know my God made a way for me
Salvation is here

Salvation is here
Salvation is here and He lives in me
Salvation is here
Salvation that died just to set me free
Salvation is here
Salvation is here and He lives in me
Salvation is here

I know God's saved the day for me before, and He'll do it again because He's told me on several occasions in the past week He would continue what He's started because I'm finally living the life He's created for me to live. I felt (and still do) feel so wretched because for as much as I know how God takes care of me and has an awesome plan for my life, I still have the nerve to doubt Him and think that for some reason that because His hands are on the wheel right now and not mine, we're going to crash into a fiery wreck. I really wish I would stop being like that, but maybe that'll be something He'll work on in the future. One crisis at a time though. I just wish the receptionist would call my name and get this over with--either way.

Until next time.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Thanks for sharing with such openness and honesty. Mark 9:24 comes to mind: "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

Praying you will sense God's strong presence as you wait for your answer, and beyond.

Peace.