Saturday, May 15, 2010

The trouble with independence

"When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me." Hosea 13:6

I've just completed my first year in seminary. So lately, I've had to answer the question of what it was like. My response is usually something along the lines of "The most difficult thing I've ever done academically, spiritually, and emotionally."

Let me explain. For the majority of my academic career, grades came fairly easy, and studying, although bothersome, never seemed to be too much of a burden. However, this year was different. The first semester stretched me almost to the breaking point. I felt the pressures of grades more than ever and, as the semester came to a close, my hope was that I would just pass my classes. This is something I can't remember ever feeling in any of my years in school. As you can imagine. I leaned heavily on God and others for support as the stress mounted and I felt out of control. In the end, all was well and I passed my classes with better grades than I expected.

But the feeling of being out of control made me rethink my approach to the spring semester- put more effort into the entire semester so as to feel less pressure at the end of the semester. It worked. I spent more time studying and writing papers and my grades improved dramatically. However, increased success led to more independence. Independence prevented much dependence on God.

Times of stress and uncertainty, although difficult, usually produce a great dependence upon God. It is in those times that we grow. Unfortunately, once those times pass, it's easy to go back to self-reliance. Independence, although highly valued in society, prevents the formation of deeply-rooted community with God and with others because when we are able to provide for ourselves, we become convinced we don't "need" anyone.

So, I hope that next semester I can find a middle ground between the past two semesters. Find the balance that allows for dependence and confidence.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

All about timing

A few weeks ago I took a break from studying for finals to go down to the beautiful Duke Gardens- a three-minute walk from where I attend class daily that I don't frequent enough. I took my lunch with me and promised myself I wouldn't look at the study materials for the exam I had that afternoon. I arrived and picked a different place (even though I don't go enough, I have a "usual spot") to sit and enjoy my lunch and creation. Two young mothers were playing with their children (I'd guess one was 3 and the other maybe 1 &1/2). They laughed, yelled, and just enjoyed the place. It was a refreshing change from being cooped up in the library with other sleep-deprived people.

Well it wasn't long before the younger guy started making his way toward a pond. He was curious and wanted to see what the water was least that's what I think. Mom noticed, and trailed close behind as he approached the water. She took his hand a few steps before the drop off into the man-made pond. Upon reaching the side, he stretched his right leg out to step onto the water, and mom kept him from moving forward. He persisted, then she picked him up and carried him away from the water. As expected, he wasn't too happy and let her know about it.

I wonder how often I'm like that. I know what I want to do and I know when I want to do it. When I don't get my way, I'm not happy. But maybe it's a blessing in disguise. Maybe I just don't realize what I'm about to get into.

Everything is ruined!

"The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!" -Numbers 11:4-6

I'm a very habitual person. I like predictability. I like knowing what's going to happen next. I like knowing what I'm going to do each day. I've been that way as long as I can remember. A great example is my morning routine- I wake up, immediately head for the kitchen for breakfast... and I know what I'm going to eat before I get to the kitchen. (I've seen this frustrate my mother when I'm home for holidays/vacations. She usually can't catch me to ask if I want something like eggs or pancakes before I have a bowl of cereal halfway eaten).

So Monday was a terrible day for a person like me. I walked downstairs after a bad night's sleep, put my frozen waffles in the toaster and pressed them down. Then I reached for the syrup. Ants. Ants- all over the bottle and they had managed to get into the syrup (i leave the top open to vent after I microwave it so the syrup is hot). Irritated, I poured the syrup out (to recycle the bottle) and used a paper towel to get rid of the ants that hadn't been on or in the bottle. I switched gears and decided that I'd eat something else. Then I went to pour my coffee. The heating mechanism had malfunctioned and i had cold coffee. This was remedied by a microwave, but on the morning of the first exam of finals week...I was not happy.

I'm not going to say I overcame it and looked on the bright side. No, I grumbled and complained to my roommate. I wasn't much fun to be around that morning, until I got out and moving and got things moving in the right direction.

Little inconsistencies and disappointments can really throw a day off. They can put you in a funk that only you can allow yourself out of. When irritating things happen, try to remember not to dwell on them and look at all of the ways that you are blessed with so much consistency in your life that you come to expect things to be "normal." Count blessings daily and try not to overlook provisions.