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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Ignoring Sensibility to Chase the (Impractical) Dream

I quit job searching today.

Before you ask, the answer is no, I did not get hired today. I should have gotten a call if my most recent application was accepted. But there was no call. And I’m done applying.

You might wonder what this means. Why does one stop applying for jobs before one is hired for decent work? To be honest, I feel a little crazy myself. It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t sound practical. But it’s the plan at least for until I move in a few months. When I resettle, I will reevaluate.

Last night, I realized that I’ve tried to do at least 97 different things with all of my “free time.” It’s left me unfocused and exhausted, and I knew something had to change. I then asked myself what it is that I’m most passionate about pursuing in this awkward, transitional season of my life. Immediately, my newest book project came to mind. Huh, I thought. Why am I not focusing on that first?

The answer came easily: I’m afraid. I’ve dreamed about being a full-time author since I was a child, but growing up all but strangled that dream. My dad once told me I’d better get used to eating ramen noodles if that’s the career I wanted. To fully pursue freelance writing would mean taking huge risks. What if I run out of money while working on the book? What if a publisher never takes interest? What if I can never finish the book? Perhaps worse, what if the book is published but fails? What if no one but my mother reads it and all that time and effort was wasted for nothing? I’d just be one more unnoticed wanna-be living with her parents because she was too impractical to get a “real job.”

All those lurking fears had convinced me that I didn’t actually want to write full-time. They lied to me. And I believed them. “It’s just a pipe dream. You could never really do it, so what’s the point trying?” they said. “Try, and you’ll only fail.” So I let fear paralyze me.

But I’m tired of being afraid.

What would it look like if I redirected my energy primarily into the new book? I mean really dedicate myself to it, excluding lesser priorities? First of all, I’d have to reclaim time from any distractions. Such as the many hours spent every week in job searching, writing cover letters, fine-tuning my résumé, and submitting applications. Wasted hours. What have they given me but disappointed hopes for jobs I wasn’t excited about in the first place? If I want to be an author, it’s about time I act on it and stop looking for other opportunities. If I don’t, I may never know if it is possible.

It’s a step of faithBy continuing to job search, I’m only looking for security. I know my passion, but I’ve doubted God’s provision and guidance, anxiously trying to find some “reliable” income. As if God isn’t reliable enough. As if every calling from God looks sensible to the world.

If I waste my time, at least it will be wasted chasing the dream and not by scrolling through job listings. If it doesn’t work and the book fails, I only prove I’m human. If it turns out this isn’t my calling, then God will use even my mistakes to teach me. He won’t abandon me because I took a wrong turn.

I’m done job searching because I have a job. I’m an author.

Update (2/25): That last application I mentioned? I got the call today. It turns out the manager was sick yesterday, which explains why I didn’t hear from her. So now I have a part-time job to support me while also leaving me enough time to continue writing. God does indeed move in his own timing and have a sense of humor.

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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Authors, Other thoughts

 

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With Open Hands

On the night of February 14, my valentine was another woman without a date. We went to an open mic event where we listened to humorously awful love poetry. Then we ate out, making up for our reduced-calorie entrees with fried mozzarella sticks, and we laughed together over our own horrific love stories (or lack thereof). At my house, we shared red velvet cheesecake brownies while commiserating with each other for our mutual relational struggles.

She told me she hates when someone asks her, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The socially acceptable answer has to do with where you want to live or what kind of employment you want to have. My friend would like to say she will be someone’s wife, someone’s mother. But what control does she have over the ambition for a family?

I can’t describe my life in five years either. I complained to her about not knowing where I will be, what I will be doing, or who I will be with in just a few months from now. I have no plans, only daydreams. But of course, even people with rock-solid plans don’t know what tomorrow might bring. Whatever plans we make, life doesn’t give guarantees.

My friend remarked that God likes to surprise us, just like a human father does for his children. Being blindfolded might make us nervous as we’re led through the dark, but the surprise is usually worth it.

Credit: Derrick Tyson, http://flic.kr/p/xPGJ

Credit: Derrick Tyson, http://flic.kr/p/xPGJ

She recommended that I approach the future with open hands. She held up one fist and said, “A fist is only good for holding onto something or for punching through.” Her other hand relaxed into a cupped shape. “An open hand can still hold things,” she added, “but it can also receive.”

A fist doesn’t receive anything except bruised knuckles. A fist is untrusting. Held at eye level, it can be a boxer’s guard. At the waist, it’s a martial artist’s security against a threat. Down at either side, they are stubbornly demanding. Pounded on the ground, the fist is a child’s temper tantrum.

But an open, upturned hand held out…there is vulnerability. It’s the child waiting for a cookie or maybe for medicine. It’s someone offering to hold a friend’s hand through the worst. It’s a sign for giving up and letting go. It’s the release from a tight grip. The open hand is willing and welcoming.

I could clench my fists and demand God for answers about my future, or with open hands, I can wait patiently for whatever surprise my Father has planned. It will be worth the wait.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Other thoughts

 

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It’s Not About Me: Part 2

If you didn’t catch the previous post, read It’s Not About Me: Part 1.

Max Lucado’s book It’s Not About Me calls into question the human tendency to believe the universe revolves around us. “We’ve been demanding our way and stamping our feet since infancy,” Lucado writes. “Aren’t we all born with a default drive set on selfishness? I want a spouse who makes me happy and coworkers who always ask my opinion. I want weather that suits me and traffic that helps me and a government that serves me.” 

The book demands honest re-evaluation of both self and God, but what particularly spoke to my heart was the chapter on life’s struggles. Lucado makes the case that even our sufferings are not about us.

When his friend Lazarus fell ill, Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Instead of immediately going to his friend’s aid, Jesus waited. He stayed where he was until Lazarus died. How could he allow such suffering? Because he knew it would bring greater glory to God if Lazarus not only recovered from illness, but returned to life.

At another point, Jesus and his disciples came across a man who had been blind since birth. The disciples assumed his blindness was punishment for sin. Jesus then replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).

If Jesus could use the suffering of Lazarus and the blind man, then Lucado asks, “What about your struggles? Is there any chance, any possibility, that you have been selected to struggle for God’s glory? Have you ‘been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake’ (Philippians 1:29)?”

By Rennett Stowe from USA (His Light Shines on Us Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Rennett Stowe, Wikimedia Commons

One of the most difficult arguments against Christian faith is: If a good God exists, then why does pain? Suffering leads us to question God’s character. If God is loving, then he must not be almighty, otherwise he would prevent tragedy. Or if God is almighty, then he must not be all-knowing, because only ignorance can explain his blind eye to grief. Or if God is both almighty and all-knowing, then he must be indifferent. 

Lucado responds, “Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end–the glory of God.”

It may appear like the world is full of senseless pain, but God uses it, bringing good out of evil. He does not waste it. Sometimes it’s used for God’s discipline. Sometimes he’s teaching you to rely on him and not your own strength or ability. And other times the testimony of his people under suffering brings more children to him than could have been saved by a prosperity gospel.

Lucado encourages his readers to discover how their problems can be used for God and his glory. But I would add that we should not be content with saying, “It is God’s will.” I don’t believe it is God’s will for anyone to suffer. Pain is a derivative of evil. We suffer because we are separated from God and live in a world that has been corrupted by sin. Jesus won over evil at the cross, but the war wages on with the world caught in the crossfire. Because suffering will continue until Jesus vanquishes over all, we should turn suffering in God’s favor, as an opportunity to reveal him ever more to this world. At a funeral of a loved one, we can show other people our assured hope of life after this one. When bed-ridden by illness, we can display how we trust God for his comfort and control.

What sacrifice are our temporary sufferings when we have an eternity to look forward to when there will no longer be grief or pain? Revelation promises, when God is finally reunited with his people, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:4). The Apostle Paul adds, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

As long as we have God with us through these painful days, what more can we ask of him? Contrary to popular belief, he owes us nothing. The reverse is true; we are the ones who are indebted. What right do we have to complain when life really isn’t about us?

We are like the child who just begins to feel the hunger pangs before dinnertime. He complains to his father, crying that he will die of hunger. The father knows better. Can anyone blame the father for making his child wait half an hour until dinner is served? The child may at first think the father is cruel. But if the child trusts his father, he might go outside to play with the neighbor kid while he waits. And he might tell that kid, “I’m hungry now, but I know Dad will call me for dinner soon.”

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Books

 

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