Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lauren F. Winner, Semester Exams and learning to deal with an angry heart

Yesterday the director told me that, at least for a time, my normal routine of leaving school when I was finished with my classes will have to change. I had been under the impression that we would have half-days this week because exams are over at noon and we would be free to go home and grade and work on preparing for report cards. For multiple reasons it is easier for me to work from our house which is less than 3 minutes away (walking) from school than it is to work at school, so this news has me frustrated. Additionally, I thought we received the half days as some sort of compensation for the hellish less-than-2-weeks we received to prepare all the semester-end study guides and exams. (Kind of a pay-me-now and benefit later arrangement.) Nyet! *cracks whip* We are required to be on campus and complete the full school days even though we don't have classes (and because highschool teachers rotate we don't really have classrooms either.)

So, here I sit in the 8th grade classroom. The table in the teacher's lounge is full, and besides, the office is a poor environment to get anything accomplished. One of my 11th graders needed to stay late to complete her test, so I left the classroom about 12.20; heated my lunch in the microwave in the teacher's lounge (I think it is the second time I have used a microwave since I moved here in August) and scurried away to an empty classroom where I could set my laptop on a desk and plug it in (since the battery is basically shot.) After lunch I will get back to grading.

I have started reading Lauren F. Winner's book, "girl meets GOD" and already I feel she is a kindred spirit. I suppose many people have that experience with writers - most of my friends stateside would consider themselves kindred with Donald Miller. In this first chapter, Winner is talking about her experience at a Messianic Jewish Synagogue and how she feels that the service is evangelical parading as Jewish. ("Add Hebrew & stir," she says.) Describing her reaction in the service she writes:
Occassionally I offer up a silent prayer that the Holy Spirit will work overtime on my heart and help me stop being judgemental long enough to recognize that these people are worshipping the Risen Lord, but I don't really want God to answer this prayer.

Bless her, I understand. It is easy to offer before the Lord the requests that we know we should make and hard to actually mean what we are asking for. I wonder if James 1:6 answers this dilema a little...the whole 'no doubting' idea has always baffled me. Of course we doubt, and more progressive theologians like to tell us that 'doubting' is normal - as is questioning God, and not something we should be ashamed of. I guess it is the way we respond to our doubts, like anger, that we need to consider? But, James exhorts us to ask for wisdom without doubting,
(5) If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (6) But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (7) That man should not receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Preach it, James! I pray often that God will soften my heart, and bring to me wisdom and compassion when dealing with other believers around me. But, deep inside I, like Winner, don't really mean that prayer. Wisdom and enlightenment mean additional responsibility. It strips away our justification and leaves us naked against the prodding of the Holy Spirit. Vulnerability, even (or particularly) before God seems such a risk. And then God's goodness toward us is called into question.

Change might be a constant, but it is also constantly hated. I came back to the DR with all this renewed intention of allowing change to enter my life - to re-invent my attitude and to renew my heart to innocence instead of cynicism. Yet, within a week of being back I am told that the requirements for submission have changed - and not for my ease. Instead of being able to remove myself from those situations that breed discontentment (like my previous resolution to spend as little time hanging out at school after classes, etc. as possible) I am required to endure longer moments of aggrevation and been advised to do so with a cheerful and compliant heart. No, God! I have prayer for wisdom and enlightenment, but phulllleeeeeeaaassseeee don't bring it to me through suffering. Please don't teach me compassion through discomfort and above all please don't require that I love the people who impose upon my good intentions in such a way. I doubt. I am double-minded and tossed about by the wind. In the immortal words of PINK, "I'm my own worst enemy." God save me from myself.

Often life seems harder when God answers my prayers than when He doesn't. And yet I am supposed to request what I know I should. And mean it. Without double minded-ness. Fudge and popsicles! *shakes head*

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sundays are the hardest days

Instead of waking me up in a way that will get her in trouble, Pila just bounces on the bed - scratches herself, lays down, gets up, turns a few times, tries to lay down again, licks her paws, etc. for about 45 minutes before I finally can take no more and get up and get her some breakfast. Rachel made pancakes and eggs this morning and they were fantastic. We are both getting quite adept in the kitchen and learning time-saving tricks. I made pancakes yesterday and put the remainder of the batter in the fridge so today she made breakfast in the less than 10 minutes I was outside reading: I just started "The Pursuit of Holiness" by Jerry Bridges. I am going to try to read a chapter a day for the next two weeks. I am not sure I will agree with all of his interpretations, but he does discuss several questions I have about what holiness (as seperateness) entails and the feasiblity of it in our Christian walk.

Rachel just left for church. I am staying in. I need to do laundry (which did not get completed yesterday for various and assundry reasons) and organize some things...but mostly I need to have some quiet time and mourn the fact that I am away from my church home and community for almost 6 months. Sundays are the hardest days because I know that my friends are all together at church, hearing the same messages, sharing lunch and laughs and conversing about the things they are learning in and out of church. Sunday was my favorite day when I was stateside. Here it holds the least encouragement or joy of any day of the week. When I do attend services here I cannot understand the message. The hymns (when they are familiar) are nice, but largely they are not familiar. I don't go to lunch and fellowship with others. Stores here are only open Sunday morning instead of sunday afternoon, so if you do need something you have to go during the protestant church services. All in all Sunday is just my least favorite day.

I was chatting with Steph this morning before church and she asked how she could pray for me today. Truly, there are so many things that I feel I need help with that I don't know where to start, but the number one thing is that I just need to be able to put aside myself and focus on the Father. But, myself seems the most tangible and familiar thing here sometimes, and it is hard to set that comfort (no matter how vain) aside and accept that there is a reason that God has me here and not there. I know it is for my own good. I know that He is faithful - I know that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father who does not change like shifting shadows...I know this, but here, it feels...forgotten.

Soon I will burry myself in work, in grading papers and doing lesson plans. In cooking and housework. Walking. The things I do to keep me from remembering how far I am from home, and all this will start to seem familiar and normal again instead of foreign and unnatural. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday will pass in whirlwinds of Medieval history, WWII and the geography of Africa. I will see friends on Saturdays. Occassionally go to Santiago or to a waterfall or some other distraction. But on Sundays - Sundays I will always remember that my body is somewhere in the Caribbean, but my heart is at home with my community even when they don't remember it is there. And I will sigh whistfully and pray for sundown when my day of rest is over and God doesn't seem so far away and busy other places.