Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Memorial Stone #10 - What am I Worth?

I started dating my wife in May of '96, proposed on December 16th of that same year, and we were married in November of '97. In the spring of '97 I was able to find a long-term substitute teacher assignment for a music teacher who was out the rest of the school year. Between all the lesson planning and grading I had to do as well as wedding and honeymoon plans that needed attention, I got very busy. Slowly and reluctantly I started dropping areas in which I volunteered at church until soon I was not doing anything at all. Surprisingly, I no longer felt as close to God. Have you ever thought that you had things all together and then realized there were things that were way off kilter? I came to the conclusion that somehow, over almost 10 years of volunteering, I had slipped into the realm of basing my worth to God on what I was doing for Him rather than basing it on the simple fact that I am His child. I felt like a fish out of water. I had left the world that I had known for so long and seemed to be suffocating as a result. I struggled to find my bearings, but it was slow going. I guess maybe because I had felt a call to ministry so early in life that basing my worth on what I was doing (or going to do) was how I perceived things from almost the beginning. It was really hard to grasp that God loves me just because I am His...and I still find myself slipping back into that mindset sometimes.

I got a permanent music teacher position (teaching K-6th grade) in August of '97 and the whole year was a whirlwind of busy-ness. The wedding went very well and we honeymooned in Hawaii. We went to Oahu first and then to Maui. It was the first time I had ever been in the ocean and getting "initiated" by the surf on the northern shores of Oahu was quite an experience. I was thrown around like a ragdoll, but I loved every second of it. I bring this up because it is pertinent to an upcoming "memorial stone" that just happened last September. That's another post, though.

I had never felt "called" to be a classroom teacher, but I ended up excelling at it because I believe it is an area in which God gifted me. I love to teach, I love music, and I love kids, but I did not find the three together in a classroom setting to be satisfying as a career. I poured my life into it. I did mostly original lesson plans and presented twice as many musical productions as any other music teacher in the district. The first year was awful, the second was a little better, and then the third was as good as I think it could have been. One of the things that was frustrating was that the pay scale was based mainly upon the number of years of experience. I was putting everything I had into it and Joe Teacher down the hall was doing just enough to get by, yet we made the same. I was never one to be motivated by money. If I was, I never would have become a teacher. However, my wife wants to stay home when we have children, and in January of 2000 when we started looking to buy our first house, we realized it would be very hard for us to make that work. I had done computer work during one summer and realized I had a knack for it, so in June of 2000 I resigned and went back to school full time for a Management Information Systems degree. We moved to a one-bedroom apartment and lived on what my wife made so that I could take an overloaded schedule and get out as quickly as possible.

The day I resigned I felt a release in my spirit and a sense that even though it was purely to be a better provider for my family, God was with me. I had allowed my busy schedule to crowd out my quiet time with the Lord and it had quenched the fire. Outwardly I still shared Jesus with people now and then and stayed away from the "worldly" things that people use to define whether someone is backslidden, but inwardly I was dry and parched. I hadn't volunteered in three years at church and considered starting again, but I just didn't feel it was time yet. After all, if I based my worth to God on the things that I was doing for Him, what would happen if I failed at one or more of those things? I was about to find out.


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