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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Gasp! The church isn’t perfect?!

But… if the church isn’t perfect, then who is?!

A few weeks ago I found myself at a meeting in the church. Everything was going fine: we were praying, talking, taking prayer requests, offering our personal experiences, and sharing ideas about what the Lord was doing in our lives. All of the sudden something happened. An argument sprung up over how the voting of new officers should be done. Women were yelling, being snippy, acting stubborn, rolling their eyes, accusing one another, and attacking one another. It was out of the blue, and I wasn’t sure how to react.

Now, first let me preface that this church is my first church. I’ve gone to other churches before, yes, but I have never been an active member of the church nor have I been a follower of Christ for more than three years. This has been my only experience of what a church is and what people who belong to Christ do.

With this in mind, imagine my reaction to a mean-spirited argument arising out of a seemingly harmless church meeting. Some (who have perhaps been in the church a little longer) may expect as much, I mean, we are dealing with sinful people here. Some might join in the argument to defend the “Godly” side. Some may simply roll their eyes and begin praying a self-righteous prayer, thanking God that they are not like “those people”. Others may pray an earnest prayer that the Lord would intercede in this disagreement and peace would be restored via Christ’s will alone.

Now, what do you expect my reaction was?

Yep… I started crying. Big fat tears rolled down my face, my cheeks were red, my eyes puffy, my nose running.

Imagine a group of women arguing, then the youngest, whitest, newest member starts balling her eyes out like a little baby. I was extremely embarrassed to say the least. I ran into the bathroom with two other members trailing worriedly behind, the rest left in dismay, no doubt discussing what might have set off the new girl.

Between heaving sobs and behind the bathroom stall door, I explained in rather childish terms, what had made me so upset.

“I just (sob sob sob) don’t understand (snif sniff) why people of God (cry cry cry) are so (sniff sniff) mean to each other (uncontrollable sobbing)!”

Dramatic and laughable (and I do invite you to laugh at me as well!) as it is now, this rather mortifying experience taught me something very valuable. The church is not perfect.

Gasp! It’s not?!

I know. It’s taken me a while to digest as well.

Before this moment, and even a while afterwards, I had been under the impression that other people were either good or they were bad. I found this manifesting in the way I read the Bible as well. Stories like the book of Esther confused me. Is Esther good or is she bad? She presumably sleeps with a man before being married to him and she lies about her heritage until her people are being killed. She doesn’t sound like a super admirable gal, but God does use her to help save His people.

This “imperfection” is is way more than just the book of Esther too. David, after being declared a man after God’s heart, steals another man’s wife, gets her knocked up, then kills her hubby by putting him in the front line of battle. What the heck Dave!? And Solomon, the love child of David and Bathsheba, decided to leave his beautiful wife to go build temples to other gods for his millions of concubines. Even Jesus’ apostles do some pretty stupid petty stuff. So, my question is, how are these people the people of God? Shouldn’t these people be better than that?

My mentality was the same for people in my church. Why are they being so mean? Aren’t they here because of the Lord? If Christ is the leader of their life, why are they speaking to one another so disrespectfully? Shouldn’t these people be better than this?

The answer is yes, they should be better than that, but they aren’t.

And it’s not just them. I also should be better than I am, but I’m not. This answer seems oddly simple: we are, as humans, imperfect. We are not good. We are sinful.

Romans 7:15-20 says it best: I do not understand what I do... For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing...”

Keep in mind, this is Paul, arguably one of the most Christ-like examples in the New Testament besides Christ himself. If even he does not do the good he knows he wants to do, and he is extremely Christ-like, then how can I expect my fellow church members to be perfect at doing good?

This is not to say that we just allow people to do whatever they want, speak harshly, and live sinfully. By no means! But when sin happens, because believe God, it will happen, we need to respond as people who understand that only Christ is perfect. This allows us to be forgiving and merciful to those who disappoint us or leave us in dismay, and it also exalts the name of Jesus, His power, and His utter goodness.

To expect this kind of perfection from anyone else but Jesus takes away from God’s role in our lives, and it also leaves us continuously disheartened and dissatisfied in other people.

As you can see from my tearful reaction not but a few weeks ago, I am still learning this lesson each and everyday, especially since I have now become a member of a church. The Church is beautiful and I love mine, but we must not fool ourselves into thinking a group of sinful people will be perfect and holy simply because they gather in the name of Christ. Guard your hearts, have realistic expectations of people, and understand that Christ is the ONLY one who is good.