Friday, January 24, 2014

jump for joy

Skier about to head down the mountain in Adelboden, Switzerland
Wednesday was one of those days when I had to fight to maintain a sense of well-being. To be honest, there were quite a few moments when I didn't quite manage it. The contentment and hope that I usually live in leaked out somewhere along the way and I couldn't patch the hole fast enough to keep low level despair from moving into my soul. I could attribute this "down" day to a mistake or two I made recently (actually, make that at least three), the sinus infection that was making me woozy and slow, or some rather curt emails from a colleague which led me to conclude that he hated me. I have also been finding teaching a burden and a chore, unsure how to fill the 2.75 hours of class-time each Friday morning, certain that I don't know enough, don't explain things clearly enough, and am not really prepared for the barrage of questions that come up on virtually every topic. In addition, writing has seemed like a giant mountain I just can't climb, so I don't even start.

I had that sinking feeling that I was on a path that I shouldn't be on because it was taking me somewhere I didn't really didn't want to be: stuck in a job that I didn't do very well and no longer enjoyed. Had I been kidding myself all this time? Had the novelty of going back to school finally worn off as stark reality dashed cold water on my face to awaken me to the brutal truth? I felt trapped, alone, afraid, and a bit sick to my stomach. What a mess!

In bed that night, tired and discouraged, I laid the mess out before the Creator of the Universe to see what he could make of it. Was my decision to pursue doctoral studies just another mistake in a long line of miscalculated and ill-conceived actions? Short answer: no. But something had changed. Somewhere along the line I had traded brave hope and simple reliance on God for a certain amount of proficiency. For me, joy comes at the intersection of wonder, humility, gratitude, and courage to try something that by all accounts probably shouldn't work if it weren't for the grace of God (and scares me silly if I am honest). My learning journey has been like taking leap after leap from the known into the unknown and being caught in the arms of a loving Father over and over again. How can one not squeal with delight at jumping over great, scary chasms into safety? So when I find myself no longer squealing, perhaps it is because I no longer jump. Perhaps I have been plodding with heavy and tottering steps from A to B, taking the long road through the valley and up a steep incline because I have found that these spindly legs can be made to do that. It is slow, tedious, and extremely tiring, but I can manage. No joy, but I get by.

Somehow I have to find my way back to leaping instead of plodding. Somehow I have to find my way back to joy, and the only way I know to do that is to stop trying to get it all right by not taking any risks, to stop working so hard at doing everything perfectly and remember again how to oooh and aaaah at the passing scenery, to stop obsessing about how I will be perceived by students, colleagues, and professors and instead, share the wonder that I am witness to every day. Somehow I have to remember that my vocation is not to be a great writer and teacher, but to be loved by a generous and good God. And when I receive this love, I find that I can write, I can teach, I can learn, I can jump.

"I finally figured out it wasn't just about performing, it's just accepting his love."
- Mike Fisher, NHL player, Nashville Predators

You can catch Mike's brief talk for the I Am Second project here.

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