I have to do something I really don’t want to, and I am going to allow myself some self-administered therapy first. It is one thing to agree one has to do something difficult, but that doesn’t mean one has to be cruel about it; grievance counseling can ease the pain.
I have to go into debt. Way, way into debt. This is against everything I’ve ever wanted. I’ve always thought I’d live a simple quiet life, with just enough to get by and no real high aspirations. I don’t need a lot. I just wanted to be creative and take care of people.
Instead, I have found myself compelled to go on to higher and higher levels of education, and in a few scant weeks, I’ll be beginning my doctorate degree. Don’t get me wrong–I love the field and I’m interested in the coursework, and I’ll be glad to keep working in the field when I’m done. And I truly do feel compelled–one of those, “you will have to answer before the throne of God if you refuse to do this” kind of situations. I don’t really feel like I could sleep at night if I didn’t do this, and doors have been opening up left and right. Other doors have been closing. Just today, in the midst of it all, the nice, practical, local university officially turned me down with finality. The mega-ouch expensive university is waiting for their payment, due this Friday.
Somehow, with all the doors being opened, the money one is not. And while, as I said, this goes against everything I want or think is reasonable or wise or fair–I don’t really find any evidence that it was ever my privilege to be spared it. Instead, I find things like Abraham up rooting himself from everything he owned and knew, and wandering as a stranger. I see Jacob being a slave for 14 years just to get his wife, and Joseph being first sold as a slave and then thrown in prison, and Moses hiding in the wilderness for 40 years before being called to lead his people, and I see David as a penniless vagabond for years while an insane man tried to kill him.
And you know what? I still don’t think that’s fair. Sure, God wound up putting Joseph above every nation and saving the world from devastating famine–but, gee, don’t you think He could have found something more productive for Joseph to do besides cool his heels in the slammer, utterly forgotten about by everyone? I know that He made Abraham the father of many nations, but why did He have to make him an outcast to do that? What use did David accomplish, running around and hiding in every cave and desolate place? Clearly God intended for him to rule the nation, and yet first He thought it was a good idea to see just how miserable He could make David?
It’s not fair. But if that’s how God set the lives of the patriarchs, why should I be counted any different? See, now at least it sounds holy. But agreeing to stoop and take over $200,000 worth of debt on my shoulder, debt that I have no idea how I could repay, debt that I think will crush every dream that I have–It’s hard to make myself do. I still want to say, “It’s not fair; it shouldn’t be that way,” and by the power of my declaration, cause a different way to come into being.
I guess, in a way, I am agreeing to take on suffering. And in reality, our human nature drives us away from suffering. It is the last thing we want, the thing we most want to avoid, and the thing we feel we most ought to be spared.
I have thought about people who say that you have tot take big risks to have any kind of real pay off. That was an empty cup. I have to accept this debt realizing that it could mean NO real pay off. It could mean just a plodding life I don’t want, living life just to pay off debts. That’s a reality many face every day–a very real possibility of what the outcome could be, and I have to acknowledge that, not pretend it doesn’t exist.
I thought about how, if God owns all the money in all the world, there really isn’t such a thing as debt. He moves it from one of His hands to the other. It did not help much, either. The money is somehow winding up in my debt account, and I feel guilty and responsible over it. I get that, in the abstract, at the end of the ages, no one is going to care about how much of this meaningless cash I moved around or had at my disposal or owed to various creditors making money of my interest. I am still living in the here and now, and the here and now sears. I feel like my head is going under the guillotine.
And I think still about the people who say it will all work out, and that is the most convicting. Abraham did beget a son and a nation; Jacob did take his wife; Joseph did save and rule the nations, with his family bowing before him; Moses did lead his people to freedom; David did become the king that he was anointed to be. It seems like an awfully stupid, backwards way to go about accomplishing things, but “He makes foolish the wisdom of the world” and it did all work out. And so while I stare down what appears to my eyes as being a terrible, terrible thing, the doom of my life and existence, I am fiercely challenged to accept and believe that this, too, is good–even though I don’t want it. I desperately do not want it.
I said to one of my friends that I didn’t think I had enough faith for this. Even as I said it, I heard the echos of other knowledge inside of me–that muscles and bones do not begin to grow stronger unless they are overwhelmed, and cannot meet the burden. We pray for more faith all of the time, and then feel like our request has been disregarded as we find ourselves in situation after situation where our faith is just not enough. How rarely do we make the connection that this is the answering of our prayers, the opportunity for faith to grow. Without the over-burden, our faith would stay week. To cause us to grow, He must try us.
We think about how people like Joseph and David were so strong in the faith, but somehow want to focus on how they were such godly powerful men, sitting on thrones. Yet how did they get there? It wasn’t the thrones they sat on that made them men of faith. I think about how even Jesus was tested and tried, and how does that make any sense? He was the perfect son of God, and yet it says that He, too, had to learn obedience. Had to learn how to say yes to the hard things, the painful things, the dark things in which there seemed to be no good. Even He had to pray, “if You are willing, take this cup from Me,” and even He had to hear that the cup would not be taken and He would drink of it.
I don’t want this, I don’t want this, I don’t want this. That does not make it unholy. I can see nothing coming from this but disaster and pain. That does not mean my eyes are opened to the truth. I am scared to go on, and it seems foolish to do so. Then why do I go? I can only go on one thing: the faith that it will be pleasing to God if I do, and displeasing to Him if I do not. My suffering, real or imagined, my debt, real or imagined, can only be undertaken as a sacrifice to Him. I have to do this, not as an exercise of my own wisdom, but as an exercise of my obedience. I do this because my life is not my own, to be spent by my understanding, but is bound in service to the One who formed my every cell and breathed my existence into me.
The terrifying part is that once I accept the loans, I am officially out of control. But the comfort is I’m moving closer to the truth, because I never was in control–I only lied to myself that I was. I am scared; God is not. I am afraid, not because I am moving in to greater risk, but because I must learn a greater trust of the certainty of what God has spoken about Himself. Daniel in the lion’s den was safe; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo were safe in the fire. There is not–cannot–be any increase in risk; there is only moving closer to God, closer to the certainty of who He is.
I am both scared to grow, and desperate for it. Faith is when you do not see, do not understand–and do it anyway.
I do not see, do not understand–God, grant me the grace.