I met with my spiritual director last week, and I mentioned how difficult the job market was becoming. In trying to make viable plans for the future, I have stumbled on to an awful reality: just because I have a master’s degree, this doesn’t mean I will now automatically land a more financially stable position.
In fact, in Alberta, having a teacher’s license, social worker’s designation, journeyman tickets, or a nursing certification is far more precious and desirable than an master’s or even a doctorate.
It means that my education doesn’t assure me that I’ll land nail that job position or even land an interview. In fact, someone with a 2-year social work diploma is more sought after because that education can be monitored through bodies such as the Alberta College of Social Workers (for example). There’s no accreditation process for… what am I again?
Not a social worker.
Not a teacher.
Not a nurse.
Not a journeyman.
Not a law enforcement official.
I’m a… what?
I’ve tried a few times now to begin launching Coming Home — a vision for a place for marginalized youth in Alberta. I even worked my thesis around it. I’ve used up my vacation days from my day job to hammer away at it. I’ve tried finding other creative ways to shape the dream. I’ve even given up on it more than once.
But God doesn’t seem to want the dream to go away. Yet there haven’t been many open doors as to HOW this freakish scheme is going to come about.
It is often said that “when God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window”.
There’s a lot of truth in holding things gently because life rarely happens the way I plan it, and I understand that it’s not all about me (most of the time). God doesn’t want to leave me stagnant, but there have been places of waiting I’ve had to remain in for long periods of time. But this idea that God has a strict pre-determined path for my entire life…? I used to believe this was so, but in recent years I’ve come to question its supposed all-encompassing truth.
And when people tell me a window will open, I feel like my disappointment and frustration at the closed doors I sensed I needed to walk through are not validated. In fact, they’re brushed off. So whether or not the truism is actually true, the tone becomes trite. And if you’re like me, you don’t like trite. It’s great in a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical; but rarely do our core beings play that out in reality.
Jesus has another take on reality:
5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for[e] a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit[f] to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:5-11)
In this parable, God is portrayed as a heavenly curmudgeon who really just wants to be left alone to sleep after a long day. But his friend won’t leave him alone! His buddy needs food and, since food is a necessity, there’s not a lot of “let’s wait for God to open another door” wiggle room. His buddy needs food, and sleepy God can gosh darn do the right thing and drag His butt out of bed and help out! The cool thing here is God does get up and help out AND we’re called to pound on heaven’s door in a similar way.
I’m not advocating a prosperity doctrine here. In fact, my blood kind of curdles when prosperity doctrine twists passage like this. But I digress.
Jesus is speaking of perseverance.
Sometimes I give up so fast that I forget that doors were made to sit on hinges. Just because a door closes once, it doesn’t mean it is forever meant to stay shut. Bang on the damn door! Kick it! Yell at it! Pound on it! Swing it open! C’mon, Erin!
And do I know what will happen if that door once again creaks, groans and finally budges open?
No, I don’t.
I might find a totally different room or land from what I’m expecting; I might find the door doesn’t open entirely enough; I might find that what I see isn’t what I need after all; I might find something scary; I might something wonderful; I might find precisely what I need; I might find an infinite number of possible things-on-the-other-side-of-the-door. And yes, I might find (after the struggle) that this isn’t the door for me. But a polite “tap-tap-tap” isn’t going to rouse any sleeping giants, is it?
The point is: I can’t give up so fast.
I can easily feel like a failure. Between trying to keep this Coming Home dream alive (somehow) and trying door after door, I feel like I haven’t really settled down. I haven’t “become” anything. I’m not a teacher, nurse, social worker, police officer, business owner.
And in our economy, it’s a powerful tool to define myself by a title and credential. That’s our career reality in which we live.
But if I start living my life by defining myself from my professional and academic credentials, then what happens when I become a teacher without students? A nurse without patients? A plumber without customers? Am I still who I say that I am?
I need to begin from a place of being loved.
When I feel like I’ve failed one too many times, or chased enough pipe dreams, that’s a hard thing to do. I place expectations on myself that I should have “made it” by now… settled down… found a “grown up” job… realized at least SOME of the vision. If that vision isn’t coming to pass, I should have the maturity to move on and find that proverbial open window.
But I’m not.
Does that make me a horrible failure at life? Maybe. I don’t know.
But if I begin living from a place of Love — understanding that I am one of God’s beloved — the rest pales in comparison. As much as God wants me to place my faith and trust in Her, She wants me to show a little spunk, a little bit of audacity and beat Her doors doom, calling out for what I need.
Sure, God knows what I need before I ask. That’s not the point.
Am I going to give up that easily?
If God loves me this much, maybe the lesson here is about radical courage to thrust my shoulder against some rusty hinges and help shove a stubborn door open. Perhaps what’s on the other side isn’t what matters right now. Perhaps what I learn about myself in stubbornly trying an extra time is.
Now if there’s a window on the other side of the door, I’m going to be doing some serious hauntings of the entire Sound of Music cast. 😉