Wednesday, October 3, 2012

you are what you...

do for a living? eat? are worth in the bank?

How to determine self-worth? How contribute to society?

For the third year, I'm tutoring. My 4 current students come from 3 local districts, including the district from which I graduated. These are wealthy districts, but I've certainly tutored students from a variety of family backgrounds and means. Every 'wealthy' suburb has pockets of poverty and low-income housing.

Privileged district curriculum in the suburbs and tutoring should get their own posts. Maybe in the future.

This post is my confession. It's been 3 years coming because I'm great at occupying my energy elsewhere. Anywhere but my unmeritorious self.

For the first 3 months of my pregnancy with my daughter, my plans were clear: work at least one more year. Apply the smaller of our dual incomes to down payment savings and student debt pay down. Get used to dropping my daughter at (cheaper) daycare. Put in my time, so I can stay home in our own home later.

Then I became suddenly, very ill. Very unusual. At home, none of my usual flu distractions appealed. The only thing on my groggy mind was to read the Bible and journal. Rereading those words I see more clearly the scratch marks where God started picking away my identity.

Even so, I remained on the fence about working another year, quitting, or applying for a year-long leave of absence. Ultimately, I decided to let God tell me through the annual 'hire or fire' meeting with an administrator. We met the day before my estimated due date.

No position for the next year.

For the first 3 months of my daughter's life, I hardly knew what to do with her beyond 'eat, sleep, poop'. I had hardly let myself hope that the pregnancy would carry well to full term and a healthy newborn. I had hardly let myself think about working or not working and what either would mean, other than reduced income.

What was I holding back from? What was I trying to regain?

I ran from my God-given identity. Or, I crossed the fine line of: being myself in a true, satisfied way; or being myself in a constructed and fearful way.

The fearful way got stuck into several myths that circulate here in suburbia.
1) What goodness and kindness I give my children, will return a thousandfold.
2) Education is the key to unlocking opportunity.
3) Those who work have worth.
4) My job, house, decorating, car, wardrobe, hobbies, children, and pets reflect my image, me.

When she was 6 months old, I spent every morning nap that month working on my resume; searching vacancies; phoning, emailing and mailing tutor information; planning a trip abroad for students; etc. Several tutoring gigs launched. What used to be my dream job school interviewed me several months later. Afternoon naps were spent figuring out which developmental milestone was emerging, which one was mastered. Meals and baby food for the next day or two were whipped up in the evenings. I drove 40 minutes one way to conduct bi-weekly meetings for the trip, and then 9 days traveling abroad with a bus full of teens. My daughter would have more than I had. Makes a body tired just reading that. But underneath all the 'successes', I was afraid.

Could God really carry all this? Would he love me? Would others love me? What if nothing works out well?

Thankfully, God sent a season of no job offers, no students to tutor, no new milestones to master soon. And he never stops trying to talk to us through Scripture, mentors, and prayer.

I still feel twinges. But he is reforming my mind and heart. Working outside or in the home is no longer about me; tutoring is joyfully about the students achieving and feeling confident.

Those myths above? How about these:
1) Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? Psalm 127 MSG
2) Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God;
    only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. Proverbs 1:7 MSG

3) Don’t you see that God has given you the Sabbath? Exodus 16 MSG
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

4) The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:72-74 NIV

What eats into you in the suburbs? What triggers you to cross the line between true and trying by yourself?

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