Prayer request: finals week!
Prayer request: finals week!
It’s midterms week for Aaron. In your first year of seminary, this is not an especially happy time. Unless you really like camping out in libraries.
The good news is that he has Monday and Tuesday off and we are going to try to find something fun to do this weekend, kid-free. Ideas?
Professor: Hey, Joe, I was bragging you up this weekend!
Student: Well, that’s gonna come back to bite you.
(Submitted by Aaron. Names changed to protect the bragworthy.)
A couple weeks ago we passed the halfway point of Aaron’s first semester of seminary. He’s completed 1/4 of 1/3 of his years . . . 1/2 of 1/6th his semesters . . . 1/12 of seminary!
He got a long weekend with two extra days off, but it didn’t feel like much of a break because he had a huge midterm the next day. Then another exam last week. And another today. Every week it’s something. He swears his professors have no idea there are actually other professors who are also assigning huge amounts of work; each one proceeds like keeping their students chained to their library carrels is their high and holy calling in life.
The saving grace is that Aaron’s not the only one feeling constantly busy and overwhelmed; pretty much all the first year students are in the same boat. He has some guys he gets along with especially well and meets with one morning a week (before 8:00 classes–can anyone who’s ever encountered Aaron in the morning believe it?) to pray and commiserate and plan their rebel alliance against overly liberal theology. They call themselves the Jedi Council. But because they like to lurk in the back of a crowd, whispering who knows what plots behind and above everyone’s backs and bald spots, I call them the TPA, Tall People’s Alliance. Or the Conservatalls. (Acafellas was rejected.)
Since the weather’s been outdoor unfriendly and everyone’s been either sick or busy or both, we haven’t seen much of our neighbors/the Jedi families. Even though we are close, it’s easy to end up holed up in isolation unless we are intentional. So tomorrow we are getting together with the Jedi/TPA families–and celebrating having just two weeks to go until a full week off for Thanksgiving!
The god of money and stuff has died. It is no longer providing comfort and peace. . . . If your god is dead, you mope around anxiously, checking for signs he’s coming back to life. If your God is Jesus, your source of joy and generosity is alive and well. . . .
Jesus was poor and generous. All the other gods in the world are takers.
Last week I was moping. And worrying. And poking anxiously. And obsessing.
And generally getting nowhere but miserable doing it.
Last week was not a good week. Nothing was working; everything was swamped. Aaron was exhausted and overwhelmed by tests and reading and papers; I was exhausted and frustrated by temper tantrums and potty training and medical bills and my own inability to meet my minimum standards for work and income and saintlyness even a basic level of cleanliness.
By Friday we had a conversation about it that can be summed up like this: “I feel like I suck.” “I feel like I suck.” “I have to study.” “I have to work.” “I need a break.” “I need a break.” Well now, that was productive.
What do you do when something’s gotta give but there’s nothing left in the bank?
You give it up. You let it go. You look elsewhere. You leave that idol for dead once and for all (once again).
I had high hopes for myself–in myself–that I could make this work for us, this seminary thing. I thought I could do enough and make enough to make the house run smoothly and keep our brand-new savings mostly intact for three years (or good grief, at least more than three months).
What I did not, could not know was how different this life rhythm would be and how much that would affect me. I didn’t know how much I’d miss Aaron having Fridays and Saturdays off so I could work at the coffeeshop and being able to blow off steam acting crazy with teenagers. I didn’t account for simple things like having to plan and cook dinner seven nights a week instead of three or four and how tired and out of creativity I’d be at the the end of these days which start so early now.
I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t do it all well enough anymore.
I didn’t want to admit my god was dead.
If your god is dead, you mope around anxiously, checking for signs he’s coming back to life.
I moped. I worried. I calculated and estimated, checked and rechecked. No use. I had to admit: the money god had not come through. I had not been able to bring him to life and make him give me peace.
The stupid thing is, we’re not out of money. I fell short of my September goals, but we weren’t in trouble. That old house we sold in Oregon sent us on our way with more savings than we’ve had in years. It was truly God’s provision for us to come to seminary. Trouble was, I wanted to make it our security.
I like to think I don’t have a spiritual problem with money because I honestly have little desire to be rich. I try to give generously and remember that even when the checkbook balance runs down, we already are rich. We usually don’t have much extra saved, and I’m usually okay with that.
But as soon as we did have that “safety net”—I fell for it. I fell in love with it, because I thought it would make me feel safe. I thought it would make me secure.
Then I found out it can’t.
It can’t comfort me, because it’s not living. It can’t give me peace, because all it does is take.
This thing–this number–became something to take pride in rather than something to be thankful for. It became something to value in and of itself and a measure of my success and worth or lack thereof. And so every time I tapped into it, it mocked me and stole my joy: You need me. You can’t make it without me, because you’re not good enough to make it on your own. If you don’t make your life revolve around protecting me, I’ll be gone, and then what will you do? You’re screwed without me.
But God didn’t give us this money to protect at all costs. He didn’t give us this provision just so we could look at it and feel better. He gave it to us as provision for this time and this task. Whether we have ten dollars or ten thousand in the end matters not one bit to him as long as we are doing and becoming what he has called us to. What good will it be for me to preserve these measly digits and lose my own generosity and joy? What good is savings at the cost of losing our balance as a family as we follow God’s call?
Slowly this started to dawn on me last Friday, through all the ugly, exhausted moments: that the one thing I can control is my response to my inability to control everything. That I may not be able to do anything about the fact that my expectations weren’t realistic at this time, but I could decide not to be upset about having to rely on God’s provision instead of myself. I could go back to being grateful for it instead of protective of it—since it’s not really mine anyway—and trusting God that we will always, as always, have enough.
Sunday we got that much needed sermon on generosity (probably the best money sermon I’ve ever sat in). And in that holy irony—whether God was blessing me with a wink and a smile or I simply had newly opened eyes to see them more gratefully—this week I’ve had work opportunities coming at me from every angle.
And I didn’t even freak out when the truck needed repairs. Take that, money god.
My Provider is alive and well.
How do you turn away from the money god? Or what dead idol do you most often try to bring back to life?
STUDENT: I hate that guy.
Aaron is a seminary student now.
He had orientation last week, and I joined in on the all-seminary retreat last Friday.
Classes started Monday.
Aaaaaaaand we bailed out of the church camping trip we were going to go on because he has so much to do–reading, a quiz test on a billion maps and more on Tuesday, leading a group Wednesday. The amount of work on his syllabi pretty much scared the pants off him for the first few days, but he does like most of his professors and classes, so hopefully it won’t all be as bad as the nervous anticipation. Still, it can be overwhelming at times.
Meanwhile I have been struggling to focus on making more work hours in the week rather than freaking out over how much more income needs to start coming in. (Student loans, please hurry…) I’ve also handled AJ mostly by myself most of the week, and I am not one of those mom who can do all toddler all the time; I start to turn into Frankenmom. I admit I have not handled this stress that well at times (like yesterday, for example).
Thankfully, we are surrounded by other students who are either feeling the same way or have already survived a year or two and can assure us that yes, first year is hard–for everyone–so we’re not crazy, but it gets easier.
And–oh joy!–we had an Oregonian in our living room! Our Smallport youth group student Chatterbox arrived Wednesday evening to start at Kuyper College. This brave one traveled across the country by herself; we picked her up at the airport and she stayed with us until she could get into the dorm on Friday. We even got to watch a Lions (preseason) game with her, just like old times. And the simple pleasure of talking about mundane things like finding things in the grocery store and knowing what she means by the peanut butter and jelly wall at Ray’s was like having a tiny piece of our West Coast home here in our West Michigan home. It will be nice for us to have each other relatively nearby. It’s funny that I’ve now experienced dropping a kid off at college, but we are happy to call her our kid as long as they don’t send any bills.