Okay, it's about to get awkward and honest. Well, more honest than awkward (I do enough of that in real life) but you might feel awkward reading my latest loop-de-loop that's got me feeling exposed. Did I ever tell you I'm stubborn? Well, I am. And I can blame it on Nichols nature or I can blame it on the human condition or I can take full credit for that thing in me that resists when people offer to help carry an obviously too-heavy load. Yep, I'm stubborn. And I'm pretty accustomed to the good and bad situations I get into because of it.
Recently, though, I've been surprised. I never thought my stubbornness would keep me fearful or help me avoid risk or support "playing it safe." All those things seem like what I use stubbornness to fight against nearly every day. I always thought stubbornness was something I could use to my advantage - to push through when things were hard or didn't make sense. My knowledge of the Lord led me straight into a very stubborn belief that, in any situation, I can "grin and bear it." I thought stubbornness was almost holy, I guess.
And here's where it gets honest.
I'm afraid of the GRE. I'm nervous that I can't kick it in grad school. I'm worried I might choose a specialized field that doesn't translate practically to serving real people. I hate the thought of looking foolish in a classroom. I fear the pride of another degree.
And I guess a combination of the above is what led me to steer clear of institutionalized higher learning after I graduated in 2007. I actually researched graduate programs that didn't require the GRE and have since looked for "continuing education" programs that don't emphasize a degree. That's how stubborn I was about my fears.
And I was missing out.
When Christ promised to bring life in abundance, he did not call everyone to the same position or profession. He is big enough to be abundant in the life of a lawyer and big enough to be abundant in the life of a shepherd. I got so stubborn holding onto Him being "big enough to be abundant" while I fill my schedule with part-time work that I refused to think there were other ways I could use/grow my gifts. This was my excuse on the surface for all those other stubborn reasons I wasn't sharing.
"I know God will use me wherever I am, as long as I'm willing to be used."
That little bit of self-talk has been on replay since I came back to the States on a mad hunt for a job to pay off my school debt. It kicked up into high chipmunk-style gear when I started working for my uncle on the farm and then when I accepted two part-time jobs in Ames. I just kept saying, I've just got to be willing. I still believe it's true, but I also believe it allowed me to hide. It was Jim Elliott who said, "Wherever you are, be all there." And to that I say, amen! But, I would add that we must always have a heart ready to do something else - something that might throw our fears out into the light and challenge our stubborn resolve.
The flip side of my willingness has hit me like a bucket of cold water in the past couple days. Am I willing to release my stubbornness and face my fears about doing something else? Am I willing to say that all the closed doors for full-time employment mean an open door for more learning? Am I willing to say "God is big enough to be abundant" if I go back to school?
Some fear is not good. And this is that kind of fear for me.
I think I'll pray for the kind of fear that ends up being worth wisdom. And then I'll pray for the courage to do what that wisdom reveals.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," Proverbs 9:10
let LOVE fly like cRaZy