Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Radically foolish

My mind has been going to all sorts of strange places the last few weeks. Well, not strange, I guess, unless you're one of my coworkers or professors.

The logical part of me knows this:
1. I need a good amount of grant money to go do my research in Spain.
2. I need a job to pay bills (rent, food, insurance, medicine, utilities, etc.).
3. I've been rejected for every grant I've applied to for my dissertation for the last two years.
4. My job ends in less than two months, with no obvious options.

The non-logical, spirit in me knows this:
1. No matter what I do, I am called to do it unto the Lord. Wherever He leads me, whatever I do, I need to do it for Him, with Him, through Him.
2. God works all things for the good of those whom He has called - even if to us it seems like things are falling apart.
3. He's coming back. And when He does, I want to be doing His work. I want people to know Him and love Him so they might be with Him for eternity.

Ever since I started attending my bible study, I've been feeling this small tug, this reminder of my heart for missions growing up. When I was a kid, I had a few assumptions: I'd get married shortly after college, maybe do missions for a while, and then do whatever else God had planned. Then I got to college and after 3 years realized God made me to teach. And considering that I didn't get asked out on a date until I was 25 years old, the marriage thing certainly wasn't happening. (In fact, I've only been asked out by two people. Ever. And yes, I'm trying to deal with that...)

So I spent the next 7 years in grad school. I got my MA in history and came out here for the PhD, knowing that I need the top degree if I was going to teach at the college level, which is where I'm most comfortable. It has been ridiculously hard, painful, lonely, and probably the most difficult years of my life emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I passed my exams and have done about 2 months of research in Spain.

But now... now I'm not sure that God isn't moving me somewhere else altogether. For the last year, almost every door that could possibly allow me to finish my research and still pay my bills has slammed shut. I've lost out on every grant. The economic situation in the state, university, and department is such that I can't be guaranteed any support in terms of scholarships, fellowships, or a teaching job. I spent most of the last week while sick researching online. Jobs. Missions. Both.

I don't know how to get my research so I can write. I don't know how to go away while Mom's sick. I don't know how to pay the bills. I don't know how to do anything. But suddenly I'm seriously open to the possibility of walking away from the dissertation and doing something new. I got an email today asking if I'd be interested in teaching overseas for a year. I can't say I'm not.

I'm not a quitter. I have only ever quit one job - and that was a situation where the professor was mentally unstable and was increasingly volatile and hostile toward me, even going so far as to accuse me of stealing her mail and locking herself in her office so no one would see what she was doing. I couldn't take the volatility any more and had to quit. But I don't, in general, just walk away from things.

I know that there is not one person in my department who would understand. I'm not really sure that anyone in academia would understand. The idea that I might actually walk away, at least for a time?

I don't know. I'm not saying I definitely will, but I can't ignore it if God pulls me away. I wouldn't ignore it if He tells me to stay. But, wow am I confused. For the last 7 years, my identity, my time, my entire world has been wrapped up in grad school. I'm invisible to most men, I've lost most of my friends one way or another, and some days the only way I keep going is by remembering how much I love teaching and my desire to not be a failure.

What if God's plan is for me to be radically different? Foolish in the eyes of my advisor, my colleagues, my students. But radically foolish for God?

Oh, yeah. Lots of prayer going into this, and will be...

1 comment:

danseuse said...

Frankly, it makes sense to me. I don't mean I think you should just do it. But academia is overrated as the be all and end all of success. Success is loving Jesus, period. So I read this and thought, yeah, now that's the heart of God. And is it a final decision. You are more than qualified for a CC job or the other options you mention. Couldn't you later evaluate whether to finish so you don't have to decide it all at once? There is no way that abandoning anything for pursuing God more is wrong. Like you said, you don't quit things. This isn't a pattern. And God has been stirring you. When they water is stirred, jump in. He says a lot about following Him at all costs and nothing about the positive value of earthly success. The very fact that a person on track to academic and career achievement would think this way sounds exactly like the Holy Spirit. That's my 25 cents.-Susan