As the deer panteth for the water so my soul longeth after Thee;
You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship You.
After an early morning bathroom break, this song came to my mind and I sang it out loud as I lay back in bed. Deep within my soul, this has been my cry. However, instead of acknowledging and seeking after Thee, I have sought other things. Let me explain.
It has been about a month and a few weeks since I came back to my birth country Argentina. After staying in Korea for nearly eight years, I realize now that this is a huge transition.
Part of me wonders what on Earth gave me the guts to come back to Argentina without an Eli-like-planned-manner. I know the answer: my dearest Abba. When I was getting ready to come here and my friends and students in Korea made a big fuzz about me leaving, I only felt their care and love. They seemed to think I was making a big leap. I didn’t think so at the moment. Thus, as I said my goodbyes in Korea, there was only joy in my heart. I was sure God had told me that three years at HIS (the old school I worked at) was it, and my next step should logically be going to Argentina before transitioning into something else. I felt no assurance about the next long step, so I knew I was stepping out into the unknown.
However, if you know me, even when I don’t have a plan, I have a plan. Thus, I set up a system of perfect lies (as all good lies, they were mixed with a lot of truth) for myself.
As all workplaces, my workplace was not perfect. And being an INTJ (we are nicknames as the “masterminds” and “system makers”), it was easy for me to identify, talk, and ask about the problems I perceived at school. And because I was right most of the time (no arrogance intended), I worked myself up to believe I really cared about changing educational systems more than I actually did (proof of this will come later). Thus, I started looking for grad school programs that taught something in relation to educational systems. I found a program I liked because it involved comparative studies of educational systems around the world. I applied to two grad schools that provided this program: Oxford and Stanford.
So, here I was, closing my chapter in Korea, not knowing what will happen next; whether I would get accepted by either university or not, and whether I would have the money to go to either. But I believed this was what I wanted to do.
And now I am in Argentina. Before the disappointing results told me that I didn’t get into either of the universities, I remember lying in bed and asking the question I had not dared ask myself before, “If I really care about comparative education, how come I haven’t researched it or read books about it in all the spare time I have had since I came to Argentina?” I told myself it was because I was so tired.
Then, the rejection emails came. That day stung me like a bee. I felt worthless and stupid. I was embarrassed. Why did I aim so high? Why did I even dream? Maybe this means I shouldn’t dream anymore. Why did I tell so many people to which universities I was applying to? If I hadn’t, this would be less embarrassing. I am sure my Christian friends will tell me “It was God’s will”, but honestly, I feel like it was my incompetence.
Thankfully, I had my parents and cousin to speak Scripture into me on this very same day.
My cousin sent me a compassionate message as well as a passage from Luke where Jesus says that there’s no need to worry about what to wear or eat; just like the lilies in the field.
My parents were secure in God’s plan being good: they reminded me of different figures in the Bible. Moses, who had the calling to take his people out of Egypt took things in his hand prematurely and murdered an Egyptian. He ended up forty years outside of the place he was supposed to rescue his people from. Only forty years later does God communicate His immediate plan for Moses and Israel. Joseph went through major career detours before he ended up being second-in-hand to the Pharaoh.
All these things reminded me of one ringing truth: regardless of my stupidity or intelligence, God has the right to open and close doors as He pleases because it is His story that is being written in my life; not mine.
Thanks to these words and thoughts, I concluded that my dream for doing something educationally meaningful is not a bad nor a fake dream, but that the way I thought it would be played out was not to be. So yes, it’s still a bit embarrassing, but yes, I am eternally grateful to God for stopping this here.
Unbelievably, I was sad about the rejection news for only one day. Yup. One day. The next day, I felt quite good. The immediate image that came to mind is something that happened in Little Women. Laurie, who is best friends with the March family, got on capitally well with one of the four sisters: Jo. And spending so much time with her, he naturally fell in love with her. They had very similar temperaments: rather impulsive, quick to anger, quick to forgive. Jo notices that Laurie has feelings for her and starts avoiding him because she knows their temperaments only click as friends; not lovers. However, Laurie manages to declare his ardent love for her on one afternoon. Jo tenderly tells him that she can’t love him in that way; that he is a precious brother for her. Laurie realizes Jo will not budge in her decision and ends up going to Europe with his grandfather in order to grieve (in his heart, Laurie thinks that he can prove to Jo that he cannot forget her even with this trip). On his trip, Laurie meets and hangs out with one of the March sisters who was also on tour in Europe: Amy. The more he meets her, the less he finds himself drawing sad pictures of the rejection he got from Jo. Before Amy and Laurie know it, they are in love, and Laurie cannot evoke the feelings of a tragic hero any more. In the end Laurie and Jo go back to being good friends.
In a sense, I am Laurie. I thought I was deeply and desperately in love with Comparative and International Education (CIE). Yet as I stay in Argentina, eating meat, being pampered by my loving family, I wasn’t feeling the “tragic hero” feelings I thought would follow after such devastating news as rejection from the only two grad schools I applied to. Don’t get me wrong, I still think CIE is a very interesting and attractive field of study. It’s just that my love for it is not what I worked it up to be.
Now, let’s backtrack a little and remember how I said that even when I don’t have a plan, I have a plan (it’s the INTJ in me)? My second plan behind my grad school plan was applying to other international schools: I could learn even more in a new school environment! Thus, as soon as I received my two rejections, I started hunting for teaching jobs. There was something in me that was uneasy about this, but I still did it indeterminately. Somewhere in the back of my mind, it seemed as though God wanted me to rest.
Internal conversation I’ve had with God about rest:
Me: I have been resting for MONTHS now! Isn’t this enough? Can I get on to doing something meaningful and useful?
Have you REALLY rested? Are you REALLY resting?
Me: No, but it’s my fault because I have been sleeping late and doing nothing much except internet-ing. I have to be a responsible human being! I am almost twenty-eight! I don’t want to be a recipient of my family’s charity for too long. I want independence.
Me: I want them to be proud of me. I don’t want to depend on them.
Me: Because that would prove I am someone.
*imaginarily think God has His eyebrows raised*
Me: …ok. I have some issues.
I didn’t realize I built so many intricate idols in my heart until God started stripping them one by one.
Let me pause here to include a little bit about my physical health and how that plays into this whole thing. Since the end of December 2016, I started having this ringing on one side of the year, and soon the ringing was on both of my ears. The first month made it hard for me to sleep at night, but by now, I am used to this ringing (doesn’t make it any more pleasant, though). I also caught a nasty cold that barely left me about two weeks ago. And from late 2015, I have had this nagging and annoying pain in my right knee. So in the midst of my transition from Korea to Argentina, I brought with me knee pain + cold + ear ringing. Mind you, I am not a grandma, but a woman in her late twenties.
This added to the “What’s wrong with me? I don’t have a job, my body is a mess, I don’t get into grad school. What am I good for? I am that useless?”
Useless. Useful. My idol: usefulness.
I want to be a useful daughter for the Kingdom of God.
I want to adopt a bunch of kids even if I don’t get married.
I want to do something meaningful for education.
I want to make meaningful videos.
They are not bad desires. But the desire to do these things are not coming from my love relationship with God, but from my obsession with being a useful person. God becomes the means to this end. And this is a mindset I must get 100% healing from.
My mom, who is one of the few people who thoroughly knows me, keeps telling me: rest. You need rest. Your body needs rest. Don’t think of getting a job. Just tell me what you want to eat next.
My mom and my aunt (she’s like my second mom), have only been concerned with seeing that the ringing in my ears stop, which means they encourage sleep and eating at all times. And to be honest, I haven’t been doing those two things very faithfully (you got a glimpse of my thought battles above, and these things have made me uneasy about fully resting in my mind, which obviously affects bodily rest).
If my mom and aunt are like this, how much more God desires me to rest in Him?
My heart would be set on “this is a transitional phase… so what’s the next step?” And I know God is telling me that I need to stop thinking of it as a transitional phase because He wants me to be present here and now, walking alongside Him in this time He has given me in Argentina.
One thing I am sure of: all of our unhappiness and dissatisfaction does not come from God. It comes from sin. Sin leaves you craving for more in a way that sucks life out of you. God, once you embrace His Lordship and Fatherhood in your life, lavishes love in innumerable ways in such a way that you crave for more in a way that awakens life in you.
As rotten roots are being purged out of me, I am joyful to see how much unhappiness, uneasiness, guilt, and dissatisfaction are melting away into nothingness.
I think that’s why God is not showing me the “next” step. If I knew it right now, I would “too-faithfully” prepare for it with my 110% in my eagerness to be useful again. God doesn’t need nor want a work-to-death robot. God desires and rejoices in a daughter. I am learning to be a daughter of the King of Kings. This means being ready and joyful to receive rejection, suffering, and mocking from the world. This means giving up my idols of usefulness, and taking up my cross and following after my Savior. This means giving up my dreams of making my family “proud” of me through any kind of accomplishment. This means desiring to know God above all else, of responding to the pursuing Abba has been doing to capture my heart.
DISCLAIMER: If I have painted a perfect portrait of Argentina, let me tell you that I am having a new set of trials here:
-Being back with the family also means looking at their and my sins up close. It aint pretty many times. Judgmental Eli wants to rise up from the ashes too many times. Thank God for the Holy Spirit, who doesn’t allow for Judgmental Eli to judge for too long.
-Church members and some family members (since I left Argentina when I was six, this is my only circle of acquaintance; yet another reason it’s not very easy to transition back to my birth country) ask something along the lines of “So, you’ve been in Korea for eight years. Did you get a boyfriend? Do you have a boyfriend?” And when they hear me say “…no.” They ask very concernedly as though I am a human being who hasn’t thought things through, “DO YOU PLAN ON GETTING MARRIED AT ALL?” To which, if I get the chance, I reply, “Yes, I would like to get married, and I am ok with being single too.” And if I’m in a better mood, I lightly say, “Ha ha! I know, isn’t it so weird that I would never have a boyfriend? Please pray for me!” And we laugh together. On my bad days, I start realizing I am at that age where it’s not cute anymore to be single and be ok about it. So the criticism and the what’s-wrong-with-you and only-weird-personality-people-don’t-have-boyfriends-at-your-age thoughts will only multiply as time goes by. The main question for me is: will I allow those comments affect me more than what God tells me about Him, me, and the real purpose of marriage (showing Christ and the Church)?
-Some days, I feel like the family puts too much pressure on me to eat more; to fatten me up. I know they do this out of love, but it’s hard for me to not eat yummily sometimes what they have prepared to eat. There are times that I eat very well (this brings great joy to all), and days I don’t (this makes everyone concerned).
Conclusion in disclaimer: Compared to the “useful” worries I had back in Korea, these stresses seem so minimal that I realize I have virtually no usefulness and responsibilities required of me here.
I borrowed this post’s title from Relient K’s song “More than Useless”. I loved this song for a long time, and the only thing I’d change in the lyrics is from “do” to “be”. I think Relient K was a bit stuck on the “usefulness” idol like me ^^