I have come to a decision. If I just write out my decision, however, it is most likely to come across as either preachy, wimpy, or just plain over-the-top insane. It seems likely that the last reaction would be the most prevalent. Because of this, I feel it necessary to preface the announcement of my decision with an explanation.
I find myself in a very difficult place. Life is really hard right now. I know that this is merely a season in my life and that it will pass. I believe that Romans 8:28 and know that beyond God working for the good of those who love Him, He does this because He truly loves us and because He Himself is completely good. These are the things He has graciously taught me already and about which I have written a lot. His lessons for me are not yet over, though, and my life right now is, well, a little on the rough side.
Work is hard. I love my job and I adore my students but teaching in a Christian school these days is not easy. People tend to think that private school teachers are paid better than public school teachers. The exact opposite is true. In order to keep tuition down and make it possible for more students to attend, salaries are low. In addition, each staff member has a lot more to do than a person with a similar job at a public school. I get to work by at least 7:30 each morning and I stay until 5:30. In spite of this ten-hour, five-day a week routine, I regularly take work home and I am NEVER caught up. Most evenings, even if I am not doing work directly related to what I am currently teaching, I am reading. Mainly, I read to enhance my knowledge about my major area of responsibility on my team: History. I also read literature from the time period we are studying or that somehow fits into the themes we are working on and I try to keep up with popular teen reading. It has been very valuable to read Twilight and Harry Potter in the past few years. I plan to read The Hunger Games series next. It’s all part of staying in touch and knowing what my students are thinking and why. Besides the work load, anything with teens involves drama. In fact, I am coming to realize that any interaction with humans involves drama. That’s just the way it is. Between the work and the human drama, work is challenging.
Our home situation is stressful right now as well. Our daughter and her three kids are living with us in our small town home. She is facing a divorce after her husband’s unfaithfulness of epic proportions. Even though she was willing to forgive and try to move on, he was not and so, well, here we are. I have not written a lot about this, and I don’t plan to, for lots of reasons, but any thinking person can imagine that it is difficult. The children are sad and confused, Amy is up and down. She is very strong, but between what she is dealing with emotionally, working two jobs and going to school full-time on-line, there are times when things are rough for all of us. Grand-parenting “in-house” is very different from grand-parenting across town or country. It has been a long time since we had elementary and pre-school children. We’re learning.
The same budget stress that keeps salaries low in our Christian school led to George’s job being eliminated entirely. The fact that he has been at home has been helpful in the transition with the kids. He can be here when they get home, take care of them when they get sick and watch the five-year-old three days a week. We have seen God’s hand in this. He knew what was coming and that is reassuring. It is getting to the place, however, where we REALLY need for him to get a job. Under the circumstances, though, it has been somewhat difficult for him to look. Moving is kind of out of the question right now, so he kind of has to find something in our area. This is difficult considering his degree, experience and age. We are trying to trust, but hope is sometimes hard to come by. Financial worries are the pits.
For several reasons, this was the year for Matt to leave. First, there was not a lot of room for him. We offered him the closet under the stairs, after all, it worked for Harry Potter, but he wasn’t into that. He also has had a hard time being sure of what he wants to do. He KNOWS he does not want to spend thousands of dollars on a degree he will not use, so he is wisely being cautious. He has been thinking about marketing and he was able to move to Detroit to work for George’s brother-in-law who has a marketing firm there. I appreciate the opportunity he has been given more than I can say, but I miss him so much that it hurts. We have gotten very close these last few years since he was the only one at home. Besides Matt moving away, Christy and Josh and the twins moved to Louisville, Kentucky and David, Laura and Brendan to Texas. Those places are much too far for weekend visits. Soon, David will be off to Afghanistan, and, well, yeah.
So, that was a very long introduction to my announcement, and after reading it you may be even more confused, but bear with me. I have decided, in the midst of the difficulty that is my life, to give up watching any and all sports.
I am not trying to be “holier-than-thou.” I love the part of Mere Christianity where Lewis talks about a certain kind of “bad man” that cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up. This is from the section where he is defining “temperance.” He further says that it is sometimes the duty of Christians to give up something for various special reasons. I have a special reason, and I am not saying that sports are bad in themselves. There was a time in my life when I was obsessed with baseball, the Mets in particular, to the point where they were much too high a priority in my life. That is not the issue now. Who has time to be obsessed?
You may think I am being wimpy because my basketball team, which many thought at the beginning of the year were shoe-ins for the national championship, lost yesterday by more than thirty points. It would be true that this figured into my decision, but not because I am a disloyal or what my father used to call a “fair weather” fan. I still love my team and I am proud of them no matter what. Remember, I am a METS fan, and while we can’t claim the kind of respect Cubs fans deserve, I do think we should get a few points for having to co-exist in the same city as that other team that wears the pinstripes.
There remains the possibility that I am crazy, and I admit that while this is a distinct possibility which I have thoroughly considered, it is not indicated by this decision. Here’s the way I see it: I am swimming in an ocean full of trouble right now. Everywhere I go, I encounter stress. I am learning to trust Jesus, to rely on Him to get me through, but I realized yesterday that I have also been holding on to a little Carolina Blue life-preserver. Carolina has been, literally, the little bit of blue in my otherwise cloudy sky. I have been trusting God, but basketball has become my little “test” of whether God is listening to me. This really does sound crazy now that I am writing it down, but it is, sadly, true. It has seemed that I could get through anything with Jesus (and as long as the Tar Heels won). I need to learn to get through anything with Jesus alone. Gradually over the last few years, God has taken away my props and supports so that I will learn to lean on Him. This is a really flimsy one I need to give-up on my own.
Last summer when Amy was coming, for what we thought was a brief visit, Katie and I drove halfway to Louisville to meet Christy so we could all be together. She was traveling with the boys and after we met, Katie rode with her to help entertain the twins and I drove Katie’s car home. She had tons of old CD’s in her car and I had a ball listening to them. One that I particularly enjoyed was an old Caedmon’s Call album. There was one song in particular which I had forgotten and which I played over and over as I drove home. I had no idea then how much I really needed to remember it. The other day, a friend posted a phrase from the song on her Facebook. I remembered that drive this summer and I looked the song up and listened to it several times on Friday. I have been thinking for days now that God wanted me to do something. I thought he was asking me to rest. I couldn’t figure out how that was possible. Yesterday was a very difficult day even before the game, but afterward, when I was further in the pit than I have been in a long time, I listened to the song again. The second verse described where I was and I knew what I had to do. I like sports, but they have taken on a weird kind of intensity for me. I have a natural tendency to go overboard; I can’t just like something a little. Watching is not fun anymore. I get way too involved, and it’s not just Carolina games. I find myself taking sides in any game I watch and praying for results, not because I really care about the team but because I desperately desire a sign that God is listening. I need to rest and I need to trust in His mercy alone. He is listening and He is all I need.
Thy mercy my God is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart, and the boast of my tongue.
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affection and bound my soul fast.
Without Thy sweet mercy, I could not live here.
Sin would reduce me to utter despair,
But through Thy free goodness, my spirit’s revived
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.
Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart.
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground
And weep for the praise of the mercy I’ve found.
Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own
In the covenant love of Thy crucified Son.
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine.
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine.