lack of faith

Daily Bread: Faith When Things Fall Apart

I didn’t grow up saying the Lord’s Prayer, either in church on Sundays or on my own. I knew it, of course –-I could recite it if called upon to do so—but it was not a part of my spiritual life until about a year ago when I started reading morning prayers from Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer on a regular basis. Each morning’s liturgy includes a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

For the past few weeks we’ve been attending an Anglican church here in Columbia and the Lord’s Prayer has a place in the Anglican liturgy as well.

“Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name,” we pray. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.”

And then, “Give us this day our daily bread,” And this is where I get stuck.

About two months ago I wrote this post about provision. I wrote about how I wanted to whine and complain about all of the unknowns in my life, but when I took a break from whining, I really could see God’s hand and his provision in the way the pieces were coming together for us as we prepared to move.

I clung to those signs of provision. I strapped them on like a life preserver, protecting me from all that was still unknown. We arrived in Columbia buoyed by the things we did know – we had a great condo lined up, Jonathan was starting classes right away, and I had 4 or 5 freelance jobs in the pipeline ready for me to pursue. There were still a lot of questions, but these things gave us confidence that everything would fall together in the end. Instead, things fell apart.

A week after moving into our condo (and painting and decorating and getting it set up the way I’d imagined in our months of kooky Korean wallpaper and windowless rooms) we got a call from our landlord. The condo had been listed for sale for several months before they leased it to us and someone who had viewed it previously had put an offer on it. Just one week into our one-year lease they were asking if we could please move out. We did some negotiating and came to an agreement that feels fair to us, but this still means we will have to find a new place and move out of our beautiful condo within the next three months.

Before arriving in Columbia, we decided that I would take the month of September to try to make freelance writing work as my primary source of income. If things weren’t coming together by the end of September then I’d have to take whatever random job I could get. I had worked diligently for the past five months in Korea to make connections and pursue opportunities. I even took a contract job back in April for a company who paid me abysmally and juggled working for them with teaching full-time in an attempt to gain the experience I needed to work for a better company I’d been in contact with. I worked every connection I could think of and came to Columbia with 4 or 5 solid leads. I figured even if they didn’t all pan out, a few of them would, and this would be a great foundation to build on. We arrived and I started making phone calls, “I’m here now and available! What do you have for me?” And one by one the doors closed.

Now we are more than halfway through September and I’ve managed to scrounge up a grand total of 4 hours of consistent work/week. (Which would be spectacular if only I made $100/hr). I spend most of my days looking for and applying to jobs (freelance, part-time, and a few full-time) and while I’ve had several prospects, so far nothing has panned out. The more desperate I become the less picky I am about what I apply for and the more I feel like I am just whoring myself out for jobs I don’t even want. Each day that passes I struggle more and more with feelings of worthlessness and I end most days heavy with discouragement and with fear. I reach the end of another unsuccessful day and I am bombarded with the fear that I will not be able to provide. That we will run out of money. That my husband will have to drop out of his program –the one thing he’s ever been really passionate about– because I have failed him.

It’s hard not to feel like I was wrong about provision. Like I wanted to see God’s hand in this so badly that I squinted until I could convince myself it was there. It’s hard to feel like I can trust him when he seems to be all about taking things away.

And yet. Within a week of arriving here I was invited to join a women’s Bible study led by the friend who helped us so much with finding our place here. I went to meet people, even though the phrase “Women’s Bible Study” usually makes me want to throw up a little. And what I found was a group of women who are willing to be real.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had five separate women from that group text me, call me, take me out for coffee, or invite me to their homes. They have sent me leads on jobs and a new place to live. And last week when I arrived at the church they had brought bags of groceries from their own homes to help fill my pantry. If that’s not grace, I don’t know what is.

It struck me this week that this phrase I pray so often, “daily bread,” is, well, daily. It is not “Give us this day everything we need for the next five years,” or even, “Give us this day enough bread to last for the next month.” It is asking God for enough for today. And it is coming back to Him, needy, each new day.

So while I can’t always seem to muster up the faith to believe that God will provide an income and a new place to live, or even a final resolution to this ear infection I’ve had off and on since July, maybe all that is required of me is enough faith for just one day.

Give us this day our daily bread.

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

When I was little (picture me at around 7 or 8, dressed like I was on Little House on the Prairie, waist length hair in braids, and sporting enormous green glasses) and people used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would say, “A writer slash missionary,” because I thought it was interesting and impressive that I understood the meaning and usage of “slash.” I suppose I probably also went through periods before that when I wanted to be the typical things little kids say, Doctor or Teacher or Professional Ice Skater. I admitted in a previous post to my brief aspirations to be an olympic gymnast, Miss America, and a marine biologist. I never did go through the phase that my friend Mary Claire went through when one of her elementary school teachers asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she proudly said, “A daddy!” But that’s not really the point. The point is that the “writer/missionary” ambition is really the first one I clearly remember.

For most people, what they want to be when they grow up changes significantly throughout the course of their lives, especially throughout their educational careeers. According to the source of all wisdom and knowledge (Wiki Answers) 80% of college students change their major at least once during college and on average they change it three times. That’s a whole lot of people who are legally considered to be adults without having any clue what they want to do with their lives.

I sort of prided myself on my single-mindedness when it came to a major. I went in as an English Writing major. I still wanted to be a writer. I declared it freshman year and never changed my mind. I ended up with two minors (in Biblical and Theological Studies and in Anthropology) which, if you think about it, are very much in keeping with my childhood interest of “slash missionary,” but the main focus never changed. I watched somewhat pitilessley as those around me waffled through those early years, knowing they had to commit to a discipline and finding it so difficult to choose. Ha-ha, I thought. I am so clever. I have figured out the meaning of my life. I am not plagued with this absurd epidemic of indecision. I know what I like. I know what I’m good at. I have chosen a course of action and am able to stick to it. Boo-yah.

Fast forward five years. My friends and I have all been out of school for a year. The friend who switched from Math and Business/Econ to History and Bus/Econ sophomore year now works for a major financial consulting  firm and makes 50K. My friend who at one point considered a triple major with Math, Spanish, and Business/Econ is now a PHD candidate in biostatistics at a major university. My friend who was never interested enough in college to attend classes still managed to graduate early and is now a Navy Seal. And I, with my smug little English Writing degree have been working as a nanny for a year and am now applying frantically for receptionist jobs becuase A DEGREE IN ENGLISH WRITING FROM A SMALL LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE QUALIFIES YOU TO DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!!!!! Smugness gone.

I realized that knowing what you want to major in and being aware of a skill you possess or would like to use in your work is a far cry from knowing what you want to do careerwise. Dream jobs for myself include: travel writer, anthropological researcher for non-profit who then writers stories about anthropological research,acquisitions editor for children’s books,  national geographic journalist, novelist, magazine editor, queen of world. The problem is, there just isn’t anything entry level in any of these areas. As many well-meaning but discouraging people have pointed out to me, the print media industry is failing enormously right now and there simply aren’t any jobs in the magazine industry that aren’t top-tier must-have-10-years-experience type of jobs. And I would have to go to school for many, many years to be an anthropologist, which sounds terrible to me, so I’d want to be sure there was an awesome career waiting for me on the other side before I committed to that.

In contemplating all of this I have realized that I so easily fall into the trap of thinking that who I am and my importance in life is dictated by what I do for a career. This past year whenever anyone has asked my what I do, I have mumbled, “I’m a nanny” and immediately followed it with apologetic explanations that it’s just for this year and that my husband was applying to grad schools and that it’s not what I want to do professionally. As if it reflects poorly on me as a person to not have an exciting, upwardly mobile career. But really…if I’m honest…I want the kind of job that people ask “What do you do?” and when I tell them they think, “That’s so cool!” And, I suppose more importantly, I want to think that myself.

It’s also really easy for me to feel like if it doesn’t happen now, it is just never going to happen. I sort of go into a panic mode when I start thinking like this. My husband and I were having a conversation a few days ago where I very dramatically told him I could just picture my life in 15 years, explaining to my kids that I too used to dream about doing things  and I never did (as I drive them to soccer practice and gymnastics in our minivan. Shoot me now.) I basically felt like the world was caving in on me as I started to accept this as the inevitable future.

Of course, DH spoke some words of truth to me. He reminded me that that will only happen if we allow it to by giving up on dreams. He said that we should just be committed to pursuing things we care about and not feel stuck in any situation we are in. Actually, I think his exact words were “Lily Dunn, you HAVE to snap out of this. We are not going to let that happen.” If we’d been in a Rom Com he would have slapped me. I told him that if I could just have the assurance that it would happen someday and that God did have something perfect picked out for me, even if it isn’t coming for 10 more years then I would feel at peace, even if I have to be a burger-flipper. And he reminded me that that’s not exactly the way God works.

God promised Abraham that he would have a son, and didn’t fulfill the promise until Abraham was 100 years old. God promised his people that he would deliver them from Egypt into the promise land, yet they were slaves for 400 years before God sent Moses. God promised that he would send a savior, a messiah and he did…2,000 years later. This isn’t entirely comforting to me, but it does remind me that I am not the only person who has felt this way or will feel this way. This is what faith is.

So…I still do not know what career I want to have when I grow up, but this I do know. In the meantime, I would like to learn to be a woman of faith. Someone who is able to be at peace with where I am and trust that God has a plan. I am not this woman yet, but I would like to be. When I grow up.