Something about routine has a numbing effect on me. The daily rhythms of preparing for work, commuting, clacking keyboards, schedules, watching movies and going to bed have a way of lulling me into a sort of tunnel vision, where I forget bits and pieces of who I meant to be.
Still, it is nice to sit down at the old keyboard, fighting to make the emotions skipping around in my psyche translate clearly into written words. It gives shape to things I experience, and an object with shape is much easier to hold and process and use meaningfully.
Samantha and I now live in a non-Seminary apartment complex called Village Manor. It is a place full of life- seminary students, people on welfare, refugees from foreign countries, international students… the list goes on. Here, we are trying to figure out the most constructive way to wait for what God would bring to us.
Samantha is wonderfully active. She spends time with friends, teaches English to two Nepali refugee girls, participates in small groups and a reading group, and of course takes care of Isaiah. It is a joy to watch her flourish as a person. I like it when people call me up out of the blue, only to find out that they want to talk with my wife and not me!
Speaking of joy, Isaiah is a thrill every day. He gets smarter and quicker all the time, which is sometimes wonderful and sometimes scary! I find that even his growing capacity for deceit and stubbornness is highly amusing. Isaiah likes to climb in my lap for about three seconds, and then he wants to climb onto other stuff. He likes to play with toys, but LOVES to play with adult stuff, especially cell phones. He enjoys pulling wires out of their sockets, and biting his stuffed animals on the nose.
My favorite thing is when I wake up in the morning and start to walk down the hall; he hears the floorboards creak and starts to yell at/for me. “Da! Da Da! DADADADADADA!” As far as I can tell, this means, “Get over here right now and get me out of this crib!” It is fun to comply, even when it means changing a soggy diaper that smells of ammonia.
My goal of late has been to become a pastor while I wait to become a pastor. People can be hard for me, and I do not think having official position will solve that struggle. So, I have been trying to use what free time I have to develop the skills to be a shepherd for those I love and whom God has given me a place of influence with. This might mean listening when a friend is frustrated, pursuing a wandering heart, counseling someone in a new situation, or leading a group of people toward new perspectives. I find that I am terribly uncertain of myself when doing these things, but it is always wonderful to see how clearly the Word speaks to all, allowing me to ignore my weakness and point to Certainty.
It has also been a time of growing confidence for me. I find that I can be effective at work, consistent in relationships, and even sorta fun sometimes. Mind you, my struggles with a bleak outlook on life certainly have not gone away. But still, it is comforting that God keeps bringing challenges designed to show his ability to bring you along safely.
So as I look forward to yet another stage of life not doing what I long to do, my hope is that Christ will continue to show himself strong in my weakness, that I will be prepared for whatever is next, and that I will be faithful with what is now.
The other day my dad jokingly called me a, "road warrior." Between Christmas, New Years, new car, baby showers, and car problems, I've been on the road a lot. We were in Michigan this weekend, and I'm going back again next weekend.
When I travel, I wonder a lot about the people I see along the way. The friendly old lady at McDonalds, the sour-looking gas station attendant who perked up and smiled when she saw Isaiah, the strong-looking white haired old farmer who wanted a coffee refill; all these people have stories (most of them much longer than mine) and backgrounds and things they think about or are frustrated with. It makes me sad that I cannot talk to them, or help them with their frustrations and hurts, or even make their day all that much better.
I guess it highlights my preference for deep, thorough, complete ways of dealing with problems. I would much rather be a big help to one person than of passing help to ten, though it makes me sad that I cannot help the ten in a deep way too.
I think, when we come to these sorts of realizations about ourselves, it is very hard to make wise use of them. Is it a problem I should fix? Is it unhealthy for me? Does it hurt me in a good way? Would it be better for me to try to change my characteristics or find ways to accept them?
Though I do not know all the answers, I am deeply grateful that God designed the church to make use of every individual strengths and gift. And though it hurts me, I like the deep sadness that comes from seeing people who are hurting. It motivates me, deepens me, and hopefully causes me to better love those I can affect. When sadness moves us closer to Christ likeness, perhaps it is a sadness we need to be more comfortable with.
Sometimes I don't identify with Scripture passages, but sometimes I do.
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! -Matthew 7:9-11
I want so badly to do the best thing for Isaiah. He brings incredible joy to my life, but he also makes me ask the question, "which is best?" about 10 times per day. Should I let him stay up later or put him to bed even though he's not tired? Is it ok to for him to chew on the table or do I need to start teaching him not to bite large items of furniture? How forceful should I be in holding him down while changing his diaper to communicate obedience?
God, in some sense, faces these decisions as our father every day. But unlike me (thank goodness) his actions toward us are perfect. He gives precisely what we need.
As Isaiah develops and matures, he'll want things from me. He may want a tennis racquet or ballet shoes (to which I'll say yes and no, respectively). He may prefer kung fu or video games depending on which way he leans culturally (hopefully toward his mother!). He will ask for the keys to the car or money for a date. He may ask to go on a mission trip to a dangerous city or country.
In all these things, my goal must be to give or withhold things on the basis of trying to best bless him toward a correct understanding of God, which is in his best interest. I must try to love him in a way that will bring glory to the Savior. One thing I hope Isaiah learns is that when he asks for things that are good for him, I will gladly give them. When he asks for things not in his best interest, I will withhold him. At least, that is my aim.
God, who gives perfectly, never fails in this quest. When we ask for things that God knows are in our best interest, he is pleased to give them. When we ask for things not in our best interest, he withholds them.
And when it is in our best interest to wait quietly, that is what he makes us do.
I'm not sure when, if ever, I will understand living quietly. But this I know; trusting the father pays, because he perfectly gives and withholds life's blessings. And so I pray and I wait.
Sometimes I read a passage of Scripture and don't identify with it, and can hardly believe it is true. Here is an example.
But we urge you, brothers, to do this (love the brethren) more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-11
My wife knows how to live quietly. She can invest in home and family to the point where she has to check herself and reinvest in outside things. She doesn't bother people, doesn't make a fool of herself, and to my knowledge has few if any enemies.
I am quite the opposite. I toss my opinions around, argue hard for things that may or may not matter, and am impatient with a quiet life. I do like quietness, mind you; I love to read and spend hours thinking on my own. But on the whole, I prefer a list of challenges to the prospect of sameness any day of the week. When a problem arises, I want to solve it. When a group is presented with a challenge, I want to lead the charge. And when a people struggles with apathy, I want to call them back to faithfulness.
But now, life is quiet. Feedback I get from others suggests that though I have the gifts to be a pastor, I am not steady or mature enough to be one yet. I can barely take school classes because of my work schedule. I cannot invest in the church with the same amount of time that others can. I am not leading anything, not solving any problem, not learning anything (except electric market structures in the state of Illinois).
As a result, I am bored. I am embarrassed to have anyone look at my life. And I constantly wish I were elsewhere, despite knowing the problem of discontent is in the heart rather than the circumstance.
I wish I understood better what God wants to do in me. And I wish I could offer my wife more certainty of our place and direction. But I cannot. And so I pray and I wait.