Friday, May 09, 2008

It's all about People

You know, the Bible never talks about Jesus having a job. Many assume that he was a carpenter by trade, since Joseph was a carpenter. It's probably true that he was trained, at least, in carpentry. But the Bible doesn't talk about him doing any trade work. Jesus was in the business of people. I wonder what would have happened if Jesus was sent today, rather than a few thousand years ago. What would he do? How would he handle the fast-paced, technological, career-oriented culture of 2008? Of course we know that he would still be in the business of people, of loving people, healing people, setting people free. But how? Would he live on the street with the homeless people? Would people support him financially as a missionary or something? Would he have gone through high school & college and become a teacher, a theologian, a writer, a journalist, a therapist? What *does* Jesus think about the break-neck pace of our society? What about kids getting sick over their ACT scores? What about applying to colleges and the intense competition between those seeking professional careers? Maybe you see where this is going now.

About a month ago I did a "values clarification" exercise with Vespera. We talked about what she values and where she wants her life to be in 10 years. And we talked about what will still matter when she's 85. Her class rank won't matter when she's 85. Her ACT scores or how many times she took the ACT won't matter. On the other hand, those things will make a difference in the trajectory of her life. She'll have all the skills and experiences of a college-educated person if she goes to school, studies civil engineering, and becomes and architect, as she is currently planning. Yet, to what degree do these things take precedent over just plain living life? You know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about reading and playing music, painting and traveling, soccer, and, of course, PEOPLE. Because Jesus was in the business of people. What about falling in love? What about surprise birthday parties and late night phone calls and long conversations at the coffee shop?

Ok, so having a college education enables you to, ultimately, have more time for the people in your life because a professional career allows you to make more money in less time. And we all need money to live. SO, how do I communicate that extreme test anxiety related to going to college is unnecessary because how well you do in school isn't the end-all, be-all in life. Because it seems like it is. And how does this relate to Jesus?

Perhaps that's the answer. Jesus, I mean. Where we end, Jesus begins. Where we can do no more, Jesus can. When our plans don't work out, Jesus has a plan.

OH, but this reminds me of something. I believe in free will, which means that I believe that people have the ability to mess with God's plan. Sort of. Mango & I both believe that he was supposed to be at his current teaching position for at least one more year. We have been saying since Vespera came to us that he would stay until she graduated for sure, and then he'd reassess his career plans. He knew that he wasn't going to be in the same position forever, that there was some possibility that the school would be closing...or shrinking. Well, the school shrunk a year too soon, and he was "excessed," meaning that he still has a job in the district but not at his school, Vespera's school. The smaller size of the school has a lot to do with mismanagement, ridiculous policies...in short, fallen people living imperfect lives. Since I don't believe that God wills the bad things in the world to happen, I have to believe that people choose these things of their own free will. If people choose things of their own free will, they do things outside of God's ideal for them.

Ok, having said all that, I think we're in front row seats this year seeing how the plan we really felt we were following has been messed with by people outside the plan. And now we're waiting to see what GOOD God will bring of this. Because we also believe that God works all things together for the good of those who love God and have been called according to God's purposes.

It's anxiety-provoking, to say the very least. This shift in plans seems very off. It has tilted our world. Everything seems convex or concave or in some other way distorted. Yet faith isn't found in being certain. Faith is in the doubt, in the shifting and the distortion. Faith is believing anyway. I don't even know what I'm believing, either...just that God will be there beside us, whispering the next step quietly when it's time for us to know.

For Vespera, though, my heart breaks. She feels a huge sense of responsibility toward her family of origin. She feels obligated to follow the career path and to do a good job, and she has been fed the belief for many years that relationships with people can only interfere with her goals...specifically dating relationships. And, furthermore, she derives her sense of worth from grades and test reports, from her proximity to the career goals she's been planning since elementary school. Those career goals matter, but things do not always work out the way we plan...because of our own fallen-ness and the broken-ness of those around us. So, our worth is not in the carrying out of those plans. Our worth is in Jesus, and Jesus is about people.

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