Monday, January 13, 2014

I will go

A year ago this time I was in a post-Urbana funk. I was spending my mornings in a social justice class and my afternoons cuddling a crazy little baby child and was positively panicky about how I would find a way to serve G0d in the upcoming year. I felt burdened by all I had heard about the need, and burdened by all I had received as a blessing of my upbringing. It was smothering, this sense of urgency; I was so afraid of wasting my time just living for myself. 

At Urbana I had stopped waffling over whether it was more sensible to stay home and work before going to law school. I drank the Kool Aid and checked the box; my gap year would be spent overseas. Doing what, only He knew, but the commitment was made. Sixteen thousand people around me sang with earnestness, “I will go, send me!” The people on either side of me, my sister and one of my best friends, both stood at the call to give their lives to cross-cultural work. I remained in my chair, wishing I could share the same leading and conviction they felt. I didn’t, and still don’t, feel that call to spend my life overseas. But I envied the simplicity of such a life. 

I got hooked up with TeachOverseas impossibly fast. I filled out the application in a day, was interviewed the next day, offered a position two weeks later, and had signed on just shy of a month from when I first stumbled across their website. It was something simple, even easy, something that I felt I could manage. I didn’t really think, I just did, and that suffocating urgency lifted from my head. I was finally doing what I had said I would do, I had made good on my commitment. My parents saw it differently, as an unstrategic diversion from my career goals, and perhaps they were right. Being here, doing what I’m doing, it doesn’t make much sense outside of “I wanted to go and here was a need.”

And it’s amazing how rewarding it is to fill that need. Even when I get discouraged about how few faith conversations I get to have or how few people I’ve befriended, I’m buoyed by those small successes when students use a vocabulary word I taught them months prior or when students email me and thank me for our classes. There are still many, many ways that I fail my students or lessons that I completely bomb, but to see progress and to feel effective in the position I came to fill, it makes me so happy. I really enjoy what I’m doing, and the love I feel for these people and this place is both nonsensical and unabating. My time in Karaganda has been a loofah for my soul, rubbing away at those jagged parts and showing me His heart.

But now I need to decide if it’s time to head home or not. Should I continue the work here, or continue with the plan that’s been maturing in my heart since I was a senior in high school? I bemoaned to Bet, “If I stay here I’ll know that at least outwardly I’m doing m!nistry.” That’s my favorite thing about overseas work: even if you’re not doing exactly what He’s called you to, at least you’re halfway there. You’ve put yourself out there. You’ve taken that risk. And for many people that’s the hardest part. But I can’t help feeling like a fraud, because the choice to come here was not a hard one for me to make. As it turns out, I’m struggling with a different kind of “I will go.”

So I got a phone call from Michigan State College of Law. They wanted to give me a full academic scholarship. I was pumped about the ego boost for just a few seconds and then utter despair washed over me. Michigan. No, I do not want to go to Michigan. No, I am not going to leave this city that I love and return to the United States just so I can spend three years in Michigan. Nope. Not Michigan. And I was so confused, doubting the call I thought I felt. At Urbana I believed I had found confirmation and blessing on this plan, a green light from the Almighty to set my hands to serving the immigrant community in Rhode Island. I felt peace to pursue this plan. I thought He had blessed it. 

So why was the best offer on my plate for Michigan? 

As I vented to Bet late one night, “It’s just so dumb because deep down I just have this intuition that this time next year I’ll be at Michigan, and I hate that!” But it was at the moment of this ugly confession that peace began to seep in. I imagined Him telling me, “Little girl, I know you’re confused and surprised, but if you think this is My will, why are you fighting it? Don’t you believe I will give you only My best?” And I kicked back a bit, asking why now, why Michigan, why did I come to Karaganda at all, why the call to Rhode Island? Why don’t I understand? And then He was like, “Why don’t you trust Me on this.” And man, the peace that comes with that is positively narcotic. 

Knowing the will of G0d is tricky business because He gives us so much freedom in following Him. It’s strange to me that the decision to come to Karaganda was much more easily made than this struggle over law school. How do I know with such assurance that I’ll end up at Michigan State? I’m not sure I could even explain. There is no Twelve Step Plan to Pleasing El Shaddai. There is no follow the yellow brick road and you’ll reach the promised land. There is only loving Him. There is only relationship. There is only drawing nearer to Him and following His heart. 

I am still waiting to hear from a few law schools. I am still searching for confirmation that I should indeed leave Karaganda. I am still keeping an open mind that this time next year I will not be in Michigan. Maybe He will yet provide the sacrificial lamb for this decision. (Because apparently I’m Abraham and Suffolk Law School is Isaac? I need to rethink that metaphor . . .) And maybe I’m mistaken about the draw to MSCL. But I’ve cashed in all my angst over this choice for a refocused perspective. I must hold loosely to comfort, quibble not over clarity, and accept His leading eagerly. Where He says, I will go. For my delight is to serve my Father. 

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