I’ve gotta go a little further with the desert analogy, so that I don’t misrepresent the character of God. Even if that means that I reveal more of the character of me. This may get a little ugly.
We went to the seminary ten years ago, at a time when many of the costs of seminary were ‘covered’. We did not have to go into great debt for my husband to get his Master’s of Divinity. In fact, we did not incur any student debt while we were there — for four years. Let me go a little further to say that before we left for seminary, we sold our house in Michigan, which enabled us to pay all our bills and go to seminary debt-free, with money in the bank. Not a lot of money, but enough to ensure that I could spend the summer getting acclimated with our children instead of going straight to work. God, the one I chose later not to talk to for a while, had arranged for us to follow his call without experiencing financial hardship. Most pastors have not had this experience.
When we got to the seminary, I started looking for work, and I applied for a Missouri teaching certificate. In order to get this, I had to first renew my Michigan teaching certificate, which I hadn’t really used in over ten years. I had to contact former employers who verified my employment, pay some money, and wait to see what happened. Although I had had a ‘provisional’ certificate in Michigan, and not really enough experience to validate the granting of a ‘professional’ certificate, some glitch in the system (or, more likely, some act of God) produced a ‘professional’ certificate within a matter of a couple of months. This ‘professional’ certificate, when submitted to the state of Missouri, let me bypass the regular Missouri system of test-taking to obtain a ‘professional’ certificate. Within six months of arriving in Missouri, I was licensed and ready to teach. All of the Missouri teachers are shaking their heads right now and thinking to themselves, “How did this happen?” Not only that, within four years of teaching in Missouri, I was granted a ninety-nine year certificate. Yeah, God, the one who was holding me in the palm of His hand, while I envisioned myself in a desert singularly fighting battles, made sure that I had the credentials I needed to do what he had planned next.
What was next was six months of boot camp in the inner city schools of St. Louis that changed the trajectory of my career and reshaped my ways of thinking about instruction. In this place, God gave me lesson after lesson in how the relationship is more important than the teaching. The students were more important than the content. The hearts more meaningful than the grades. And, I thought that was all about the students.
Then He lifted, almost literally lifted, me out of that bootcamp and plunked me down in a school full of seasoned professionals so that those lessons I learned in the city could be reinforced and practiced and shared. With students and with teachers.
And I didn’t fully acknowledge his hand holding me.
Right now I am speechless.
Now, I will admit that although my professional life was pretty spectacular and definitely ordered by God, my personal life was a bit chaotic. And that chaos was the cause of me shaking my fist at God and saying, “Fine then, I guess I better strap on the battle gear and take care of this myself.”
And He had to be just looking down at me, in the palm of his hand, lovingly shaking his head, and saying, “Ok. Do what you must, but I really am right here, carrying you.”
All my fighting did, I can see now, was wear me out, and probably make some of the situations even more complicated than they were to begin with.
So, here I am, acknowledging that I am in the palm of His hand. Watching the deer out my window as I write this. Trying to be still. Trying to trust that God, who has always taken care of me in the past, always carried me, always provided for me and my family, will surely continue to do much more than I can ask or imagine. That is His character. I think you got a glimpse at mine, too. Sorry about that.
Now to Him who is able [and willing, and likely] to do immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,
to Him be the glory…