taking myself too seriously

So, over the past month, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what exactly I would like to do with my life right now. There are several options of things I could pursue--pastor in a church, chaplaincy, CPE units, etc., and I've basically been driving myself crazy trying to figure out which of them (if any) I really want to go after, or what it is that I want to do. My long term plan is to get my PhD in biblical studies (probably OT), and then my super awesome dream is to start a new kind of seminary with two of my best friends (members of the inner sanctum of my life) Micah and Aline. So far they are open to entertaining the idea, with the stipulations that 1) we not give grades, and 2) it be located in a warm climate. But that's a ways in the future, and only Micah is actually currently in a PhD program...so we'll have to wait and see about that. But a girl can dream.

So as I've been brooding (no, it's not too strong a word) over what the hell I'm going to do with my life, and whether there is anything I can do with an MDiv that I actually would like to do, I have realized how self-centered this process is. It's a really tricky line between focusing on finding a line of work where I can use my gifts for the good of humanity and the Kingdom, and realizing that the real stuff of Christianity can be lived out in beautiful, radical, and authentic ways in all sorts of different occupations. I think I have gotten caught up in the former--as if I am just so fabulous that the whole world will lose out if I don't use my gifts in the right way. Sometimes I just take myself too seriously.

I'm just trying to walk that tricky line between taking my life seriously as something to be a good steward of, and at the same time not taking my life that seriously since I know God is above all things--and I'm not doing too well at it. It's really this period of decision that is hard. I feel like once someone gets a job, no matter what it is, the question is then how to do that job in a Christianly sort of way. But it's this preliminary choosing piece that's just taking me over the edge. For some reason I just feel like I have to find this perfect position where the greatest amount of my gifts will be used with the greatest output, and that will challenge me to grow in the most ways. It's like some holy career equation where I need to find the threshold of gift utilization.

But then I think again about what Christianity is about--cups of cold water for people who are thirsty, welcoming the stranger, caring for the orphan and the widow...the last being first, and I realize that maybe my perspective needs to change. As I consider things to do though, it's hard to fight against the feeling that I must put my MDiv to use, and that's exacerbated by the fact that most of the people around me also think I must put it to use. Otherwise, it's a waste, right? But I do keep thinking that God's ways are not like human ways, and just because God calls someone to go through seminary does not necessarily mean they have to "use it" in some kind of conventional way. It's a hard lie to fight, though.


People and Beads

When I left Atlanta, I asked some of the people who were important in my life while I was there if they would give me a bead. (I didn't get a chance to tell everyone, so if you would like to contribute a bead, and I didn't mention it to you, I would love it!) I wanted a tangible representation of some of my relationships there, and something I could take with me and hold in my hands and look at as the years go by. This is the result (so far!):

It's just nice to have tangible things sometimes. I mean, memories are great and all, but sometimes it's just nice to have something you can touch.



It's been a few weeks. Rather than make myself feel sickeningly self-indulgent by typing every single thought I've had over the past few weeks, I'll just mention a couple kind of broad places my mind has been going lately. And in terms of specifics, yes I am in California, and yes I am still undecided as to what the next step in my life is going to be. I'm meeting with my Presbytery in about 2 weeks so they can (hopefully) certify me as ready to look for a call (if that's what God and I decide to do with my life). I had to write a sermon and exegesis paper (on a passage of my choice) and a 1 page statement of faith, and turned them in last Friday. So, now I'm a little more free.

One thing I've been thinking about a is Hope. Since not "getting in" to the L'Arche community in Seattle, I have basically had no hopes for anything. (I actually am, in hindsight, glad I didn't end up in that community. But the real disillusionment with L'Arche in general has been what I have been taking really hard and what has been very disappointing for me.) I think I am too afraid to hope, and am in self-protection mode. And I know that ideally my hope is not based on anything but Jesus (can't you hear the song? My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness...), but I think most people would be lying if they didn't admit that their hope was somehow influenced by the various things that happen in their lives.

And while I do agree that the only sure thing we can put our hope in is God, I have been thinking a lot about what the good is of hoping for things on earth--like for our own dreams, desires, etc. I mean, everyone does it, either for a spouse, healthy children, a job they want, how they want their ministry to grow, whatever. And at a time when my own hopes for my future have become nonexistent, I have felt that was a bad thing, and that it would be good when over time I began to hope for these things again.

But last week I went to lunch with a friend of mine who is now doing her post-doc work on a Reservation in rural Wyoming, and we talked a little about this hope thing, and her take on it was different than mine. To her, not being overly hopeful for specific life events is part of the process of maturing. That as you just experience more in the world, you realize that everything is going to be a mixture of things you like, and things you don't, of hard things/easy things, etc. So you are just more realistic as you approach things, and you don't pin all your hopes on one specific job/person/plan/etc.

There is something really true about that--because the longer I live I see that what I hope for and what is really good for me are not necessarily the same. And at times I have had a clear view of the reality that when I haven't gotten what I wanted, and was pissed at God, it was really the best thing in the end. But then other times, that's less clear.

So I guess the main question I'm wrestling with is, Is it good to make plans and have hopes and dreams for your future? And if so, how much should you really hope in them? It seems like, with God, I have to hold all of my own purposes loosely--no matter how good and in line with the values of the Kingdom I think they are, because (and I think this is the bottom line) I just don't dream as big or as well as God. So is it a good thing for me to have no hopes about my life? Is that a manifestation of holding my purposes with open hands? Or, is it a manifestation of cynicism and a brokenness born in disappointment? Or maybe both? I guess there is a real invitation here for me to place my trust in Jesus alone in a new way. That's the upside.