My New Job as a PHM: On quitting teaching, walking labyrinths, and foolishness (part 1)

A lot has changed in a matter of about a month.

I quit my job. That was probably the biggest thing.

No longer am I a CPS teacher on the Southside of Chicago. In fact, no longer am I a teacher at all, unless you count fitness classes, but I don’t. No longer am I getting a large paycheck every 2 weeks either… which is also quite an adjustment.

Can I be honest? Oh, you know I will be no matter what you say– I’ve been wanting to quit my job at CPS since about the second week of school this past year. Going there everyday for the rest of the school year was very hard for me. There were days when I could barely keep it together before the kids left, and sometimes when I had to physically leave my classroom to keep from breaking down in front of them all. The end of the weekend was hard, and so was the close of a long break. Getting out of bed was hard. Walking through those doors was hard.

But do you know what as harder?

Actually making up my mind to leave. 

That was way harder.

“I am not a quitter.”

— This is what I kept telling myself day after day. But inside my soul was crying out. Inside I knew that I could be so much more alive and so much more fulfilled in a different environment, doing a different kind of work– a different calling.

After wrestling with God about this for month after month, I finally felt it deep down in my bones: the only reason I would be staying is for the financial security; I was afraid to leave only because of the pay cut it would mean for me. Was that a reason to hang on to a draining job that was quickly squeezing the life out of my passion? Would staying be truly acting out of my identity in Christ?

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out “Abba! Father!” The spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” -Romans 8:15-16

My heart burned with the conviction that God would be with me, wherever I went and whatever I was doing. Being a CPS teacher was a calling— for a time— and leaving my job as a CPS teacher was also a calling–for this time. I couldn’t live as a true Child of God if I was acting out of fear– being a slave to it, and in doing so, a slave to my identity as a teacher.

I mentioned before about how God took my identity away from some things, and so doing, healed me of a 7-year-long battle with bulimia, and so I knew that if God wanted to take away my identity from the role as “Teacher”, then some serious healing or blessing would probably follow. See, whenever He takes our identity from something, he places it in Himself. This way, we are never defined by this world, but by He who overcame the world. This, in and of itself, is a blessing.

What could I do? God did not give me a spirit of fear! I informed my principal that I would resign from teaching at the end of the year. 

As more and more people “found out” about my departure from CPS, there were mixed opinions.

Some were proud of me, wishing they could do the same with their disliked job.  Some were confused– why would I quit a high-paying job that I was having such success in? Some were supportive, encouraging me to do what what was best for me and my family. Others were discouraging, implying that I was quitting and giving up too soon.

I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t let any of their opinions effect me. But after some Spiritual Direction and time of solitude at the Portiuncula Center for Prayer, I found myself ready to truly say “Goodbye” to my former job, be utterly grateful for every part of it– the good and the bad– and to fully embrace this new and refreshing season in my life.

At the Center, there is this blabyrintheautiful labyrinth that the hermits can walk while meditating or praying. There is only one way into the middle of it, but you must walk the entire interior of the maze. There are no dead ends and no ways to skip or even look ahead in anticipation. You simply have to follow the path, trusting that it will lead you to your destination.

This is how it is when you follow God. You cannot look ahead but a few steps. You cannot fear getting lost, because He is guiding you, and although you may stumble, you will not fall off the path (Psalm 37:24). This takes a lot of trust, and many people on the outside will probably just think you are taking the long way, going around in what appears to be meaningless circles and odd turns that make no sense. But…

“..the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” -1 Corinthians 1:25

What appears foolish to the world is often the wisdom of God. What appears like weakness to humans, often is taking the mighty strength of God. These facts have comforted me as I think about how my career change may be perceived by others.

All this to say that I now have a new profession.

I call it a “PHM”.

I’ll be explaining what that is in a later post, but rest assured that is it far more energizing, fulfilling, and live-giving than my previous job, and I am so grateful to God that this job is part of my journey on this labyrinth of life. Even if the rest of the world scoffs, I have the reward of my Savior shouting “Well done faithful servant!” in the far corners of my heart.

Stay tuned for more… I’ve got  to get back to work.

More than you can Handle

Have you ever hear the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle”?  

The idea that God won’t ever give us too much is a very comforting big, fat, lie.

God WILL Give You More than You Can Handle.

I’ll admit, before I came to this conclusion, I felt comforted knowing that God would never allow anything to happen that I could not “handle,” whatever that meant. Things would always be manageable and I’d always be okay.

The truth is, the Bible doesn’t ever mention anything at all about giving or not giving us more than we can handle.

The verse that some Christians could possible confuse with this phrase is 1Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

The key word here is “temptation.” Here Paul promises  that God will not allow us to be “tempted beyond our ability.” God doesn’t say He won’t give us what we can’t handle. He says we won’t be tempted beyond our ability.

So…. you may ask. What’s the difference? What is “our ability”? Well, the second half of the verse, I think, helps answer that question: “but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Our “ability” is attached to the way of escape that God offers us each time we are tempted to sin. This exit door is what helps us resist and escape it. But more importantly, our ability is measured by our maturity in Christ and our reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

God certainly does allow us to experience more than we can handle, though.

Jesus was given more than He could humanly “handle.”

He prayed that God would take his awful fate away from him, but he added the important words “but now my will; your will be done.”  He was then beaten, crucified, and died an excruciating death. He did so without sin, however, because while he was tempted, he knew the “way of escape”. Still, God game him way too much for anyone to handle.

Like He did with Jesus, God will inevitably allow us to experience more than we can handle. Maybe it’s in death of a parent, or a spouse. Maybe it is watching a life-long dream drift away. It could be soldiers who watch their friends die in combat. Little children and siblings born with mental illness, or physical handicaps. Or may it’s simply God calling you to a very difficult career, financial stress, a draining job, or a very lonely period of time. Any of these things might be more than we can handle… but that’s the point.

Christianity is not the guarantee of an easy life, but the abundant life.

It makes us uncomfortable to think about suffering loss and God allowing that loss. (Don’t get me started on Job.) But God wants desperately for us to cling to Him, to hold onto Him for dear life sometimes, (as we are drowning). Without Him, we would drift away into nothingness. We will suffer greatly, at some time in our life, that’s a guarantee.

And it is because of our  sufferings and through our sufferings that we can become more like Jesus:

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Philippians 3:10

I want to know Christ and, if sharing in His sufferings is one way, then bring it on! Paul also tells us to rejoice in our trials and tribulations of any kind, for the “testing of our faith produces endurance”.

I gladly accept the fact that God will allow me to experience such pain and difficulties that I will be broken under the weight of these burdens. Then I can look to my Lord, the lover of my soul, and cry out to Him, knowing He is the only One who can save me.

I do not want to buy into the lie any longer of naively believing that there is some magic limit or glass ceiling on suffering. There isn’t, and we demean the power of Christ’s sufferings when we assume there is.

If we are do be like Him, we must suffer like Him, and then turn to only Him, only our Lord and Savior. He wants us depending on Him. When are we ever more dependent on Him than when we can’t handle ourselves?

Do you think other followers of Christ will suffer for believing the lie that God will never give you more than you can handle? How is God pushing you to lean on Him more in your life?