Why does God have me around all the people-pleasers?

Since I have moved about a month ago, I have met the overwhelming power and presence of God over my life. Through a series of events and daily encouragements, I am so convinced that the Lord is with me, and it is certainly his will that I am here, learning to be a teacher. Overwhelming, nearly inexplicable strength has come over me despite having moved to a new city, making new friends, setting new habits, etc. I have found a wonderful church. I have people I am supposed to care for. I am being groomed for ministry through working with children and other people (and their parents). If ever God lays something so thick on your heart about the direction you should go but doesn’t explain it, listen. I would have never expected that the best training I could receive for ministry would be in a Master’s degree program for Early Childhood Education. The Lord knows all the details. I don’t yet, but it’s so obvious that this is his will that it’s hard to worry about all that.

For the past year or so, the Lord has brought friendships in my life with people who instinctively try to make everybody happy. Which to me, is madness. I am direct. I am decisive. I don’t mince words but I’ll go miles out of my way for a friend. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to learn something through all these people, and I have. I get the feeling also that I’m meant to strengthen people somehow, and model/teach about what healing is and the freedom available in Christ. It isn’t always easy.

When you are made aware of people’s needs by the Holy Spirit, that can be a heavy burden. It’s hard watching my friends struggle to parse out how to meet what they need. I often watch people pursue all sorts of paths that I can tell you from my own experience won’t serve you for nothing. I can often tell you why those paths are false, both from scripture and personal experience. I can even tell you what it feels like to be in that specific situation, because I remember. It’s maddening to know what people are going through and only be able to tell them what I know about the truth: That Jesus came and rose again so that we would not just have life, but have it to the full. That Christ is strong enough. That literally the only thing that is going to fill that hole is Jesus. It sounds crazy. It is crazy. It’s also true.

When people see where God has brought me but weren’t witness to where I’ve been, they just have to take my word for it. If you already have a hard time believing, that may be a stretch. I’m just trying to keep the same steadfast behavior and even become more kind. Shifting your heart attitude to a place to where you’re willing to believe that there could be a God takes time. You can’t rush it.

Which is maddening. I know what could heal you TODAY, but most people aren’t ready. I have to patiently wait and continue to show grace until the day comes (if it comes) where you’d be curious or desperate enough to seek Jesus. That’s hard. My soul mourns and cries out watching all of these people killing themselves for a grace that can’t be found where they’re seeking it.

God has honored me by teaching me these things while I am still young, but that’s also difficult. So few people have found God at this age. So few people of my generation believe that Christianity could be genuine. We are scattered in 1000 different directions because of the lack of integrity in the generations before us. We are desperately pursuing authenticity wherever we believe it might be, despite all of these bitter old people who want to act like we’re the most shallow generation that’s ever lived. When you criticize Millennials, you basically admit that you aren’t willing to help us, and you aren’t actually invested in growing the next generation of the kingdom of God. That’s selfish.

Lord, please teach us to bear with one another, ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. We are a people in need of healing. We believe that you are powerful. That you’re strong enough. Please come and heal us through your own name. Amen.

Sea of opportunity

As of today, here is a list of things that could be part of my career path:

  • Design toys for children
  • Publish a book
  • Design public policy to support children with childhood trauma in schools
  • Lobby and organize for the inclusion of trauma-informed care in school curriculum
  • Teach in a classroom for grades PreK-2
  • Go into full time ministry
  • Travel on an education-related grant
  • Travel as missions
  • Relocate abroad to teach in a Christian international school
  • Relocate abroad to teach as missions
  • Have kids (or not)
  • Pursue research or a fellowship programs related to curiosity and resilience
  • Write grants for a non-profit related to education/children
  • Design Sunday school curricula that re-frames the Teacher as a learner, and vice versa
  • Establish an independent Christian school that can combine faith with self-directed learning and the pursuit of God
  • Run for public office, based off of a prior career in public policy

And those are only the ones I can imagine.

The funny thing about going into a field that from the outsider’s perspective, is dying, is that you have so many veteran educators looking for people to pass the torch. In what other community do you find people this generously willing to help promote a new voice, so long as they think that person would do some good? Given how much teachers sacrifice for others, there are so many people already primed and ready to help lift up a newcomer’s voice. With the US education system in such dire need of long-lasting meta-level reform, it’s an great time to consider being a part of it. Since our congressional leaders aren’t willing to listen to them, those people willing to learn from our brow-beaten veteran teachers inherit an enormous gift.

More than anything, I’m surprised how many helpers there are freely sharing resources and expertise for the good of public education. The main reason that there is a lot of opportunity within this field is not because it’s glamorous, but because our teachers want there to be.

Bump in the night

When I was little, I used to pray past the bump in the night,
The creaks on the stairwell,
My parents raised voices.

When I was little, I thought my father could drive out the monsters,
I felt much more afraid at my mother’s,
I got a nightlight to swallow my weakness.

When I was little, I prayed in the dark,
And I cried in the dark,
One tear for each pet returned to the Humane society,
My penance; I thought it worked that way.

When I was little, the shadows of the car light,
Passing through the venetian blinds into darkness,
Raced each other around my room until I nodded off.

When I was little,
I prayed over two dead Robin’s burial,
We dug a little ditch in my friends backyard,
I said a few words,
We put on more dirt.

When I was little,
I prayed that God would lift me out of my seat,
When the light shined through the big stained glass windows at Sunday service,
And he’d lift me high into the air,
And he’d prove that once and for all he loved me,
And that those stories weren’t some kind of joke.

I prayed that the stirring in my heart at my first communion meant something,
I prayed that there was a reason to care about my classmates who were rejected,
I prayed that the Christian kids would stop making me feel bad because of my family,
I prayed that maybe they’d be nicer to us.

When I was little, I didn’t ever realize I could trust in his promises,
And I’ve been running for a long time,
Feeling little and banking on hope,
That there would be vindication eventually.

And I find myself, older, still scared at the bump in the night,
Still praying to find the presence of Jesus,
Still seeking and looking for some sort of proof,
Telling myself to just go back to sleep, “If it’s a murderer, they’ll murder me”,
I wake up,
I search again,
But I know that my prayers will be answered.

Life goal: noticeably love God

My biggest hope for how others perceive me is that the first thing they would notice is my love for God.. I want to raise my children from that love. I want to invest in my church from that love. I want to love the Bible from that love. I want offer grace from that love. If what I do can always be a response to God’s great love, I’m going to have a beautiful life. And if I already overthink how I come off to others, maybe this can be a solution. Being attentive to how I am perceived helps me problem solve. It is the same mechanism that helps me pay attention to other people’s needs. If I can harness that self awareness and consciously promote the gospel out of steadfast love, I can lean into a better way.

Thought 10/14

When you notice patterns in yourself, for better or worse, they lead to bigger and more all-encompassing patterns. For example, this week, I’m noticing that I have a pattern of needing to test others before I trust them. While you could call this discernment when it’s positive, you could call it stubbornness and the need to be absolutely certain when it backfires, and life just doesn’t work like that.

So what about you? Do you have any inconvenient patterns that you’ve ever noticed, or could be noticing? Quilting your flaws together can lead to bigger results, even if it’s just a deeper realization of why you need to invest in forgiveness. For those who are under grace, weakness isn’t the end but the beginning. Embracing criticism when God can heal you is like gutting a fish, but it turns out okay in the end. Fear is a godawful mess no matter whether we stand to acknowledge it, so it’s better to stand with a God who cares about you and is willing to help you through it.

Notes from comparing the gospels accounts of the Crucifixion

*Mark 15:46 Compare Joseph’s (of Arimatea’s) white linen shroud that was wrapped around the corpse of Jesus to the many colored coat of Joseph, son of Jacob (Genesis 37 until end of Genesis).
*The battalion of soldiers
mocking Jesus in Mark 15:16-20 is like Jesus casting a batallion of demons into pigs (Matthew 8:28-34).
*Psalm 22:1 which opens with the same line as Christ cried out just before death (My God my God why have you forsaken me) is the one I used to read all the time when I was most depressed and given the nature of depression and it’s waking similarity to death, I doubt that is a coincidence.
*In Mark 15:36, the only person inclined to help Jesus by offering him something to drink was told to wait in order that they could all see what kind of spiritual stuff might happen if they just let him keep dying. They wanted a sign, and that feels a lot like the desire to make God prove himself while staying couched in comfort. His entire crucifixion was viewed as a test, which is especially demented because in Matthew 27:43, the Pharisees implied that he could not be the son of God if God was presently disinterested in saving him. Like, wow. Can you imagine? Every word they spoke in Matthew 37:39-43 mocking him was realized; after they had used it in irony. Christ did come down from the cross. He was the King of Israel. He didn’t save himself, because at that point, he’d already been broken. Instead he became even weaker, died, and rose to life. For their sake.
*Jesus asks his father to not make him drink of the cup of suffering in the garden in Gethesemane three times, in which he has company but is basically alone. With company of sinners on his either side, parallel to his own cross, he is offered and doesn’t drink wine mixed with poison. Before he is given poison-less wine to drink, he dies, like some sick twisted experiment young children do to rip the wings off of flies. Much like preserving a dead insect on display, his body was strung up and broken so that a limitless audience could be at prime viewership for his ultimate scorn. Even the royal color purple and his heritage as the Son of God was made into an insult before him. The people wanted to murder a righteous man and desired to even condemn themselves if that was what it took to murder him (Matthew 27:25). They hated goodness so much and reviled life that they were eager to curse their own children, so long as the true source of life died. That sounds painfully familiar.
*The Pharisees must have been scared shitless to seal a giant boulder in front of Christ’s tomb in order to “make it secure” against his corpse, since Jesus said he would rise in three days (Matthew 27:62-66). They had no idea but they were still afraid. Go figure.

Of all the gospels, the book of John is my favorite because it reads like stories of someone who truly loved Jesus and was continually amazed by him, like the way you might speak about a best friend. I admire that John seeks and finds his identity in Christ. He speaks as one who is secure.