Tag Archives: reflections

living in the ellipsis

For the last week or so I’ve been digesting a chapter of A Balanced Christian Lifetitled, “Blessed Are the Meek” as I consider what to do with myself now that I have officially left my teaching position.  The writer focuses on Moses, a character of the Old Testament who “attempted to help God with human wisdom and power.”  To make a long Hebrew story short: Moses grows up as the adopted son of Egyptian royalty, with all the power and privilege inherent therein.  The Israelites, who are his actual forebears, are slaves of the Egyptians and it is Moses who eventually leads them out of slavery.  But before this can happen, Moses is pulled from his comfortable life and languishes in the desert for forty-some years, so that by the time God finally calls him to do something, his confidence is pretty much toast.

Oh Moses, I can relate.  It wasn’t forty years, and it was ghettos’n’cornfields, not a desert,  but to my battered spirit this year was the culmination of a period of desolation.  “Again and again He places you there, without giving you favorable environment, so that you may submit yourself under His might hand.  This is to test whether or not you will do His will, for your own will must be dealt with.”  I won’t speak about my choice of teaching as a career, but surely my withdrawal from community and loss of my self was not God’s will, and I admit that I chose this path for myself.  I ignored several warning signs and plowed ahead, thinking I knew what I was doing, that I was bound by my own expectations of what my life should be like, and to some degree serving my pride over what I’d accomplished so that I was reluctant to turn my back on it.  But after my first year in the classroom, I have to admit honestly that I don’t feel very good at what I’m doing, and that perhaps classroom teaching is not the best use of my strengths.

But Nee also writes, “Knowing one’s own uselessness alone is still useless.  The important thing is to know the power of God….If we stay [at the place of no self-confidence and no self-reliance] and refuse to go forward by trusting in God, we will greatly displease Him.”  Right now I am quite ready to admit my own weakness, but rather afraid to move forward from that point and admit my strengths and passions.  Writing brings me to life.  Counseling brings me to life.  Hell, showing girls how to use makeup brings me to life.  And yet to pursue those means starting a new chapter, which always scares the crap out of me.  In the words of Maia Sharp, “…every beginning means something else is ending.”  We talked on Sunday about how any sort of self-death is terrifying, even for Christians, because you just can’t know (in the sense that we as humans understand knowing) that resurrection is going to happen.  But that’s where faith comes in, right?  Right?  Right…

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Born This Way

Yesterday I went with my friend Skye to participate in a flash choir performance of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” sponsored by The Harmony Project, Equality Ohio, and other groups whose names I have forgotten.  My intent was not to make any sort of political statement (I rarely do), but to spend quality time with a friend I haven’t seen in ages, and to belt out my summer anthem.  This year has been about learning and loving who I am, messy emotions and all, and Gaga puts it so well:

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way

I’ve spent much of this past school year wishing I were somewhere–and someone–else.  Someone who had it all together.  Someone who was happy, and therefore (in my mind), likeable.  Someone simple.  But I was not those things, and for a long time I could not cut myself any slack for having such a hard time, which of course made everything worse.  In therapy, I found space to recognize, perhaps for the first time, my own howling grief and the inchoate sense of loss unresolved.  I started searching for parts of myself I thought lost: my dominant intuition, long bound and gagged; my deep emotions that are at once my greatest strength and most dangerous vulnerability; my place in the bigger picture; my genuine needs and desires.

As the pieces started coming back together, I came upon the topic of codependency, and while I do not fit the classical definition related to substance-abuse, I certainly suffer from a pathological need to be needed and craving for approval–with my parents, working with colleagues and students, in my romantic relationships.  (Friendship seems to be the one bulwark against this tendency, and even there I’ve noticed it pop up with certain people.)  So I started reading codependency literature and plotting ways to renovate my personality.

As I reviewed some work I had done in the fall, though, I came to the realization that I was born this way: Developer was among my StrengthsFinder themes, INFJs are inherently complicated but warm and also the rarest personality type in the U.S., and in the Haugk Spiritual Gifts inventory I scored highest in Generosity, Nurturing Leadership, Mercy, Servanthood, and Helping.  Suddenly I stopped feeling like a circus freak. I remembered what one of my teachers (who is also an INFJ) told me last summer: “God knows who you are and has someone who accepts, loves and even needs your craziness, creativity and overflowing intensity.”  Codependency, like any sin, is simply a perversion of what God intended for His creation, but through Christ I have the power to take back what is mine/His.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: Lion King says it best.

You have forgotten who you are, and so you have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become....Remember who you are.

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