Sunday, August 24, 2014

Life changes and worry

I've been thinking a lot lately about how life changes and how people respond differently to those changes. My 12th graders keep that topic on my mind constantly, as they are continually worried about the future:

"What if I don't get into a university?" 
"What will happen if I don't get a good enough score on the SAT/ACT/CU-TEP/CU-AAT/TOEFL/(an infinite number of other college entrance exams)?" 
"I don't want to grow up. I like being a teenager." 
"I don't know what I want to do with my life."
"My parents want me to be in ____ program, but I want to do _____ instead."
"I'm afraid of being done with high school." 
"I'm going to miss my friends."

The truth is - I've never had any answers to any of these questions, but for some reason my 12th graders believe that I do. Either that, or it simply makes them feel better to ask these questions and make these statements out loud to someone who will sympathize with them. In either case, one fact remains: things are going to change for them, and soon. There isn't any way around that.

I find myself asking a lot of questions in my life, too: What should we name our baby? What will being a mother look like for me? Am I going to be good at it? Do I want to go back to teaching next year? Is it okay for me to keep working (because I like my job) and be a mom, when we could happily survive on one source of income?

Wondering about the future is one thing; worrying about the future is an entirely different thing. That, I think, is where I differ most from my students in terms of how I will deal with impending life changes. I see a lot of my 12th graders every year battle sickness, fatigue, depression, and all sorts of other things as they attempt to cope with the stress of deciding the path for their life's future. There is a lot of pressure on them from themselves, their families, the school, and even society as a whole to make "the right" decision. I, on the other hand, have found that my current situation warrants less worry and stress than theirs does (right now, at least!). I try to eat my vegetables and get some exercise; I feel healthy and I feel my baby kicking, telling me that he/she is healthy, too. I don't worry.

Worry eats away at our lives. There have been times in my life when I've been so consumed with worry for my future (like when I graduated from college and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but everyone kept asking me anyway), that I haven't been able to live in the present. Therein lies the problem: how can we live for the future if we do nothing in the present except worry? Living in the present, influencing the people and situations around us, is how we can shape what the future looks like.

There are other changes in our lives right now besides the arrival of Baby VM in a few months. A couple of our close teaching friends here at GES will be leaving in less than a week to move back to Canada. We have known them since we came to GES, and our lives will be different with them gone. This couple has gone above and beyond to build community within our school, hosting game and movie nights, participating in other outside activities. I went through an entire masters program with this couple, and learned a lot with them and because of them throughout the duration of our courses. They had a baby recently, and have been a source of advice and information for us as we look ahead to becoming first-time parents, too. We will miss them greatly, as will many other people at GES.

Our church has been searching for a head pastor, since our previous pastor died of cancer in January. For the last two weeks, a pastoral candidate has been visiting our church and community in order to get a feel for what being the lead pastor at the church would be like. The leadership of our church is meeting tonight to discuss whether to call this man and his wife, who are American, to minister with us here in Thailand.We are hopeful, but not certain about what the outcome will be.

These are just a few of the changes that I foresee happening in our lives in the near future. I'm sure there will be many others as well: for me, as the baby continues growing and we get nearer to December, I expect there will be changes in the way that I approach teaching and interacting with my students. How will I approach all of these situations? With concern or worry over what used to be, or what will be in the future?

We serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who, throughout history, has used the lives of people to influence the lives of many more people; the God who promises things and then fulfills those promises in his timing; the God who is faithful, just, merciful, all-knowing, forgiving, and many more things, even when we are not.

Why worry about your life? Why worry about your future, when you know the One who holds it all? Why not stop worrying, step out in faith, and live in the present for the God who created and called you to do his work?

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