What matters most to me?
Recently, just surviving.
This past month, convincing people they haven't made a mistake by hiring me.
But now, having scaled that initial hill, I find myself toppling over into triumphalism.
I'm good at my job.
And the generous praise coming my way now is so easy to believe, so easy on these ears, so warming to this heart that has been so anxious. How could I not enjoy this? The escape from grinding worry about the future, this freedom from the sense of having my hands tied while sentenced to watch other people trying to scale the wall.
I just love the routine of my day -- the early morning yoga and devotional, the laps at the pool, the conversations with other working women in the locker room as we dress up every day in our pretty, competent clothes -- with good shoes and earrings to match. I love having co-workers to say good morning to, to confer with, and to collaborate -- after years working alone, it feels so rich to have others pushing the same wheel forward. And I love getting to return to a place where Eldest and Middlest are still remembered, where their shininess still reflects back on me -- I realize I've missed basking in that particular reflected light.
I love having my own desk, my own office where I can work for stretches of time without interruption. Where people ask my opinion. Where people act on my suggestions. Where my education is considered valuable. I delight in the achievable expectations, the rhythm of the day, the time set aside to accomplish, the mix of routine with larger ongoing initiatives -- which are my own initiatives -- and the scope for imagination combined with the joy of seeing ideas take physical shape. Who wouldn't love that?
I enjoy even the politics, the juggling of policies, the jostling for position, figuring out the currents of influence. But in my enjoyment, I lose my focus, forget I'm on a mission. Specifically that I am here to lift the young people of my town to opportunities they had not before considered. I begin to want to do well not for them but just to be the straight-A student again.
I want people's respect and their liking and I forget the "poor and needy." I forget that I am poor and needy. I forget that from a heavenly perspective there's not that much difference between any of us.
In my morning reading recently I opened up to James 3:13-18 and instantly recognized my close-held, self-focused ambition in all its nakedness
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?And as instantly recognized that the wisdom I am chasing is of the less admirable variety:
let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not . . . This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.Oh darn.
Meekness again -- I keep opening up to words that whisper in my ear to be "humble, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of patience." And what is this now about the "meekness of wisdom"?
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, and the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.So much for the jostling and juggling.
What matters most?
When I think that question, the answer that comes is an image. A shepherd out in the rain, inflicting on himself the same weather his flock suffers.
Why did Jesus take upon Him all our troubles?
So He could serve us better and save us utterly.
And so I've tried to take down the shiny statute that is the false idol of my pursuit of excellence.
And tried instead to look outside myself more determinedly.
To celebrate the excellence of others -- being more scrupulous in giving credit, taking time to let supervisors know of the good things their supporting staff have done, expressing thanks and appreciation directly and in definite detail.
To rejoice in this glorious autumn -- the plummy sky, the brilliant leaves beneath piled purple clouds -- biking in it, walking with my hill-climbing friend, gathering leaves and last flowers from my garden to keep in the vase by my desk.
I've tried each day to take a family member with me in my heart -- thinking of them throughout the day, dwelling on their current concerns, recommitting to serve them in all the quiet and invisible ways that no one ever seems to notice or sing praises for -- planning good dinners, giving haircuts, talking together.
I've written a note to myself that I keep slipped under the edge of my standing-desk/ keyboard lectern -- its edge just sticking out to catch my attention as I work each day to clear my desk -- "I'm not here to build a career. I'm here to build community."
And it is good. My joy deeper, my purpose more firm, my conviction growing that I am privileged beyond belief to be giving myself each day for what matters most -- in the town I've come to love so well.