Counselor, Counsel thyself….

So that "big decision?" I was to have started school yet again a couple of weeks ago, this time working towards a master’s degree in counseling that would have resulted in Ohio licensure. However, after confronting the reality of my current employment and my commitment to be a good Christ-follower, not to mention husband and father, it seemed evident that this was not a good time to begin such a program, especially as the summer classes would have had me at school two nights a week while I likely would have continued to be at work at least another three. For many reasons, this would not have been good. So, to my view, I’ve given up any long-term hope for a better job in exchange for a relatively mediocre one now and a bit more time at home in the meantime. I say this job is mediocre because it brings with it such a high level of stress, unpredictablity, potential for injury and burnout, etc., not to mention a not insubstantial amount of time away from home right now. Moreover, that time away from home, coupled with the just-mentioned unpredictability, often feels quite lethal to my commitment to be a good husband and father. Such is the life, I guess, of someone with a Master’s degree in the History of Christianity. Nonetheless, I know I should be very grateful for meaningful work to do that challenges me to use my gifts, and I am. I guess my biggest challenge, then, is simply to trust Jesus. I am challenged to trust that he loves me and is, in fact, causing his kingdom to come, both in the larger world and in myself. And I know that trusting him isn’t the same thing as believing that all of this- this mess that my life often seems to be- will somehow "work out" in the end, because I know that it may not, at least not as I so desperately long for it to. I say that not so much because to quit believing "it’s all going to work out" or "be okay" would force me to confront my own insignificance, but even more so because to quit believing that it’s all going to "work out" would force me to confront my own significance apart from all my frenetic activity. I guess what I’m saying is that maybe it won’t be "okay," after all, if being okay has anything to do with my constant efforts at controlling everything. Maybe everything will blow up in my face…..and maybe that explosion will finally free me of the chains I’ve been strugglling with for so many years- real or imagined. Maybe then I’ll  finally feel  the freedom that I know Jesus keeps offering me.
…..or maybe not……
Either way, I do still believe…..
I believe Jesus, and I don’t mean that I believe in him in the sense of adhering to a set of tenets about him, though I’m not saying that I don’t. No, I mean that I believe Him. When he bids me come and follow Him, I will….wherever that may lead, and no matter how many times I get lost along the way. I trust that like Wesley in the Princess Bride he will "always come for me," Fire Swamps and R.O.U.S’ notwithstanding. I trust like my friend David used to that somehow, despite it all, the resurrection is true, which is to say that Jesus is who he says he is. I trust that love really is what it’s all about, and that grace is the flowering of that love. I trust that the greatest strength is found in choosing what looks like weakness- that is, choosing to lay down one’s life for another. I trust that God’s judgment is revealed in his mercy, and that this mercy is not only for you, but also for me. I trust even that my choosing to trust somehow "counts" though I turn around and act out of my fear, rather than trust, just a moment later, and when I do so, that’s where I meet Jesus, for that’s where I get to see Him for who he really is, for his strength is always made manifest in my weakness. So look at me, world. See what a mess my life is. See how weak I am, and then meet a person who has told me everything I have ever done…and loves me still.

I’m stealing a quick moment to post something before moving on to other tasks. This job has been really challenging to me, which is a good thing, but part of the challenge is giving the job my all when I’m there and giving my family and the rest of my life my all when I’m not. If permitted, I suspect this work role would suck the life out of me and destroy any other meaningful relationships. I’ve often conducted an imaginary conversation in my head with my supervisor in which I explain that if I am ever asked to make a little idol out of this job and bow down to it, I’ll be out the door so fast that heads would spin. The job is a means to an end, not an end. I am very grateful to have meaningful work to do in a role in which I have some responsibility and which challenges me to use my gifts, but having appropriate boundaries is very important to me. Moreover, I already have a Lord and, as much as I am able, I will not serve two masters.
All of that is simply to say that the job is good but unpredictable, stressful, and demanding, and I am still working to find balance. This has led to other big decisions that I’ll write about when able, Lord and my fatigue-level willing, perhaps tonight….