frustration

When I’m Angry With God

So, I know this isn’t a very kosher Christian thing to say, but I’m just gonna go ahead and say it – sometimes I feel really angry with God.

When we first arrived in Raleigh we didn’t know anyone except Christina (my college roommate), but we were so blessed to make friends relatively quickly through a couple we met at our church. They lead our community group and through their welcoming us in, we became friends with them as well as a group of other wonderful people. 

One of the things I have loved most about Raleigh has been the sense of belonging we have felt from those who have welcomed us in and made us a part of their community.  This was the first time in my adult life that I truly felt like I belonged where I was, that Jonathan and I had made friends with other couples who were in similar life-stages and we were, that people were involved in our lives and we were involved in theirs. A few months ago when we were considering moving again to pursue grad school opportunities, I was so torn between wanting to pursue opportunities and wanting to stay here in this place where I saw a potential future for us. And that future wasn’t based on the careers we have here (which are way out of our fields) or the educational opportunities we’ve found, but on the people we’ve come to love.

In case you are really confused, that isn’t the part that makes me angry. The part that’s made me angry is that God now seems to be taking these very good things away from us. Our sweet friends who lead our community group suddenly got a job opportunity in the Chicago area and are moving in the next month (ironically they are moving within a few miles of where we used to live before coming here.) A second couple in our group suddenly had to opportunity to buy a fantastic little house, but it is in Durham and they will likely be looking for a church/community closer to them.  Another girl from our group has been given the amazing opportunity to move to Scotland and work with a church plant there. So essentially, in one fell swoop, most of our community has fallen apart. (If you are one of our few friends sticking around, we are so very grateful for you!!!) Intellectually, I recognize that all of these things are good for our friends and that my happiness about where these people live is probably not God’s main priority. Haha. Deep down I know that truly loving people means wanting God’s best for them, even if it doesn’t feel like the best thing for you, so on that level I do rejoice to see God providing exciting opportunities for my friends. But that doesn’t make me happy about the situation.

Please understand, I know that there are many, many worse things that can happen (and have happened) in life than all of your friends moving away. I’m really not trying to make the case that this is the worst thing ever. But it has brought up some real frustration for me that is connected to something a lot bigger than whether or not I have a lot of friends nearby. And maybe that is something you can relate to, whatever your particular disappointments have been.

This may seem like a bit of an over-reaction, but I’ve been really discouraged since finding out about all of these changes. It’s not that any one of these people was some ultimate source of happiness for us, but I did find a lot of fulfillment in belonging to this group of people and growing alongside them. It genuinely has helped me through the struggles of not having a job that I love and not knowing what we should be doing in the future to feel that these relationships were the thing God had clearly placed in front of me. I felt that even if I couldn’t see God’s hand in other areas, I could see it in these relationships and I took it as a confirmation that we were in the right place, doing the right thing, even when it was difficult. And now it feels like that small measure of peace and security is being taken away. Additionally, I feel like things are moving forward in so many of our friends lives and I feel  stuck in so many ways. Directionless and without even a short-term goal.

Why is it that the things you want to stay the same are always changing while the things you wish would change seem stuck the way they are forever?

The whole experience has launched me (yet again) into that series of questions I can never seem to get away from. What am I doing here? What should I be doing? There are so many directions I thought my life might take and so far, it hasn’t taken any of those. I have never held a job that I really loved. In fact, I have a difficult time even thinking of a job I truly think I would love.  Some days I just want to give up and resign myself to living a boring life moving from one uninspiring job to the next just to make enough money to live on, but that terrifies me more than anything. I can seriously think of nothing worse than living a life with no adventure.

I feel like I’ve been asking God the same questions year after year, and he never throws me a bone. Sometimes I just want to scream, why did you make me this way and give me all of these desires and then leave me with no guidance about what to do with that? If my life is meant to be spent moving from one uninspiring job to the next just to make enough money to live, why would you give me this deep desire for my life to be meaningful?

And I know what you are thinking… “Depends on what you think is meaningful,” so let me put it this way. I don’t want or need an impressive career, and I don’t think I need to move to Bangladesh. I just want to be able to look back at the end of a day or a week or even just a year and put my finger on moments that mattered. Things that had eternal significance. And instead I find myself plowing through my workday, desperate to get home where I can get away from the stress of my office to make dinner and read books and watch tv shows and fall into bed exhausted by 10:00.

God has been very good to us. He has provided for us. He has given us more than we need to survive. And most importantly, he has given us himself. Maybe it’s sinful for me to even be asking for more. But I want more. I want to know what in this whole wide world I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Because today it just feels like I’m wasting it.

So, that’s where I am at today. Though I’m genuinely excited to see these friends follow God’s leading, I’m sad to be losing them, and I’m feeling  discouraged that God seems to be at work everywhere except in my life. And frankly, all of these feelings are making me really angry.

The good news is, I don’t think God’s freaking out that I’m mad at him. And I don’t think he’s surprised. I believe he knows me intimately. That he understands the way my mind works and what triggers my emotions. That he loves me in my brokenness and foolishness. But somehow, on a day like today, none of those things are particularly comforting to me. Mostly, they are just making me a little more angry.

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How I Am Fundamentally Incapable of Making Decisions

This past weekend Jonathan and I took a mini-vacation up to Asheville, NC. We had never been to Asheville before, but had been talking about going for a while. About a month ago I sneakily researched and booked a cabin in the mountains a few miles north of Asheville. Then I sneakily requested time off for Friday afternoon and I sneakily packed all of our things. I got home around lunchtime on Friday and told Jonathan we were taking a trip! I was a little nervous about the cabin since I’d seen pictures of it on the internet, but obviously had never been there. Pictures can be deceiving. But it was absolutely lovely! See!

Welcome to Chestnut Cabin

The cabin was built in the early 1900’s, but the inside was fully renovated and there was a stocked kitchen and two little bedrooms and a nice living room where we could watch movies and everything. And the best part of all…our own giant hot tub in the back yard! It was the perfect location. It only took 5 minutes to get to a grocery store and 20 minutes to get to downtown Asheville, but the cabin was very secluded and quiet and peaceful. We had two gloriously bright and beautiful days and nights clear enough to see more stars than we’ve seen in a long time. Also the planet Mars. : )

This is the view from behind the house if you are standing up on the deck where the hot tub is.

We hung out in downtown Asheville on Saturday. It is a really unique city. Most cities you visit have some unique qualities, but more or less the same feel to them, but I can honestly say that Asheville is different. I have never seen so many hipsters in one place. It’s a small city, but there were street musicians everywhere, some sort of protest against nuclear power plants going on in a little park (after which the protesters marched single file through town silently except for a few people who were banging on pots or drums. I am positive that at least half of them had absolutely no idea why they were there), and people openly passing joints back and forth while waiting to cross the street.  Asheville is one of those places where you feel obnoxiously preppy while wearing skinny jeans a plain blue sweater and Toms.

View from the front porch.

We had dinner Saturday night at this fantastic little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Nine Mile. I found it on Yelp and am so glad we picked it. It is in a really weird location in the middle of this historic neighborhood where the houses are old and enormous, but pretty run-down. You’re just driving down the street through this neighborhood and then there is randomly this one building on the residential street that has a little corner grocery store and this restaurant in it. It’s an interesting little restaurant, long and very narrow, with a purple tin ceiling and old wood floors. The atmosphere was great, pretty intimate and nice, but not fancy, and the food, which is Caribbean-inspired, was delicious! Jonathan had jerk chicken with a creamy mango-y sauce and veggies and I had mahi mahi with a banana mango relish over linguine with peppers and a coconut cream sauce. AMAZING.

OK, one more picture and then good-by cabin. 😦

Over the weekend we also had a lot of time for talking. We talked through (and over and around) lots of possibilities concerning me going to grad school. I got accepted to NC State to do a Master’s in cultural anthropology. It’s a two-year program, but it’s not funded (at least for the first year) And I would only be able to work part-time while going to school. Which means cutting my income at least in half and also taking out a loan to cover tuition which would be adding to a decent amount of student loans I already have from Wheaton. I was also still waiting to hear from Ohio State regarding an MA/PhD program I had applied to there and had some positive interactions with a professor in the program who seemed very interested in working with me.

After talking about all of the options for a while we landed on a possible solution to the dilemma of wanting to go to school and wanting to be able to afford it. We decided that if I got into Ohio State I could look into the possibility of deferring for a year and we could spend this next year working and saving as much as possible. That way we could enjoy another year in Raleigh (which we love), but still have a concrete plan for what we were doing next and something for me to really look forward to. Because the program is an MA/PhD I felt comfortable deferring for a year because after I was in I’d be in for good and wouldn’t have to worry about applying to PhD’s etc. And Jonathan felt good about this plan because he could continue to apply to Ohio State’s MFA program (the entire time I was doing my degree if necessary) because it is one of his favorite programs.  And we both felt good about this plan because if our present income remains steady we should be able to save a little every month barring a huge crisis.

We thought, “We are geniuses! This is perfect plan” (at least, that’s what I thought.) We (I) started making all kinds of plans. I found a little house for us to rent next year that costs barely more than our apartment. I started planning a trip to visit Jonathan’s brother in South Africa next summer (where he is not yet 100% certain he will be.) Also potential side-trips from that trip (you know, long layovers in Europe, that kind of thing.) And also a mission trip this year to either Uganda or Romania (effectively spending all of the money we’d be “saving” during that year, I know.) I felt happy and peaceful and excited and thankful that God had finally given us an answer.

And then…we returned home. Away from the magical mountain cabin I discovered three forms of rejection from Ohio State waiting for me—one online and two hard copies, just in case I didn’t get it the first time….they really, really don’t want me.

I was beyond frustrated. Honestly, I am still really frustrated. I feel like all I want is to do the right thing—to pursue what I should pursue in a financially responsible way, and to be selfless in making sure whatever we decide doesn’t keep Jonathan from being able to pursue his goals as well. I mean…these are all good things. And yet, not matter which way I look at it, it seems like the sort of decision where somebody loses. Where something important is lost. If I don’t go to school I think I’ll regret it. If I go to school and it keeps Jonathan from being able to do what he wants, I’ll regret it. If I go to school and we end up tens of thousands of dollars further in debt, I will regret it. There just isn’t an easy solution. In fact, right now it feels like there isn’t a solution at all. And the days keep ticking by til April 15th, the day we have to officially make a decision. And I genuinely feel further away from a decision than I felt when we first started talking about it.

Last week in our community group we were discussing a sermon our pastor, Tyler had given about prayer and about Moses’s relationship with the Lord through prayer. The passage we focused on was from Exodus 33:12 where Moses says to the Lord, “You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you.'” As I have gone through this week of frustration…of thinking I’ve finally found an answer and then discovering that I haven’t got a clue… of honestly deep frustration with God over his lack of a clear answer, I have been really impacted by the thought that God knows me by name. He knows me intimately…what I’m good at and what my desires are, my hopes and my fears. And it occurs to me that maybe the prayer I should be praying is not, “God, what should I do with my life? Should I go to grad school or not? What is the right answer to this question?” but rather, “God, teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you.” And somehow learn to trust that the God who knows me by name really does know what’s best for me. That I don’t have to try so hard to figure it out on my own. Even when God doesn’t seem particularly interested in telling me which way to go. 🙂 Jonathan put it this way—that instead of praying for God to tell us what the right decision is, perhaps we should pray that God would change our hearts to be the kind of people who make right decisions because we are directed by the Holy Spirit.

I will be honest. I am not completely comforted by this. And I haven’t been able to completely stop myself from trying to figure out solutions. But I do think there is truth here. And I know that, more than anything else, I need God to show me His ways.