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.

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Truth: I am a weirdo

“Those who are ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the son of man will also be ashamed when he comes in glory of his father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38

There are times when I feel that being a Christian makes me weird. In a world where it’s encouraged to devote your entire life to making money and having fun, my life choices and opinions seem to contradict with the general population, oftentimes making me the awkward Jesus-freak at the party.

Yes, at times I feel confused and outcast when I find myself the only Christian in a group full of people who seem to despise anything remotely religious.

And I’ll admit, there are dark moments when I feel tempted to hide my true beliefs in Christ’s words simply because I don’t want to offend other people or be the odd one out.

Reading Jesus’ words here in Mark have deeply convicted me. I do not want to be ashamed of my Savior! I do not want to blend into an adulterous and sinful nation, even if it means I feel completely outcast.

In reality, Jesus himself was an outcast from the rest of society (that’s why they crucified him). But he shown brightly and stood out like the city upon a hill that he calls us all do be.

I too, am called to stand out and be marked as different. I am a child of God in a world that attempts to make gods out of celebrities’ photoshopped images; of course I am going to seem a little strange to the majority of people.

I am deeply proud of my God’s work, even when I don’t fully understand it. I love my Savior Jesus Christ and will never be ashamed of his unique holiness nor will I shy away from the high standards he holds me to as his follower.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” Mark 8:34-35

I am a follower of Christ, therefore my life is not my own. My choices are lead by my God and so may look ridiculous in the eyes of many. But since my life is not my own, I do not live it to seek approval of the world–what good would that do me in the end?! It’s Jesus’ approval that I truly desire.

This is not an easy teaching: to place your entire identity in someone that you have not met face to face yet.

But the weight of the world is much heavier than the weight of his cross, the cross that he already carried for us.

I would rather love Jesus and be a weirdo than be accepted into any social group on this earth.

What about you? Is it ever hard for you to admit to those around you that you live for Christ? Do you ever feel yourself hiding your faith or feeling ashamed of your unique calling? How does Mark’s passages speak to you?