As I return to sameandother after a brief hiatus, I return with uncertainty, but also with a new hope (no Star Wars pun intended). My goal has always been to write a weekly post, but in the last few months, it was impossible to deliver on this. I wasn’t even able to fill the interval with jokes or a brief update.
A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I enrolled in a graduate studies program, began double shifts at UPS, and entered into the holiday crunch time. I still haven’t graded student assignments, much less posted final grades (shh…). It was a season to gird up my loins, grow-up, and hit the ground running.
Hit the ground running I did. It began as real period of gratitude. I had a unique study opportunity, generous overtime opportunities, excellent UPS pay, and even the possibility of tuition reimbursement. But what began as a period of amazement, possibility, and gratitude ended as an unforgiving and bitter grind. The overtime cut into time with my kids. My health, mood, and spiritual condition all suffered.
I had known that November through mid-January were going to be a hard press, but I was determined to push through the schedule I had deemed necessary. I had calculated that a certain number of double-shifts would cover the added expenses of tuition, additional child support, taxes, tithes, etc.
But this Friday I reached an emotional wall. UPS cut 16 hours of time-and-a-half I had counted on. I went home frustrated and resentful at God. Having planned to drive home at four the next morning, I instead picked up some Mexican and went home to brood over the new state of affairs.
While I spoke to friends on the way home and prayed that I would trust God to be the provider, be open to His plans and not my own, I still spent several hours making calculations and planning to make up the time with triple shifts during the coming two weeks.
Not surprisingly, I woke up angry the next two mornings, scared that more shifts would be cut, and worried that making up time would set me up for exhaustion and irritability. After all, I had planned a special long weekend with the kids and now I would be exhausted for it. Still, I needed that overtime before school began in mid-January. I needed to meet my financial schedule and to be free from double shifts by the date I had set!
But in the back of my mind lurked the question, “Did I really?”
Finally, in church celebrating the Christmas liturgy, I opened up more deeply and willingly in prayer and asked the question, “Did I really need to? What would happen if I didn’t push so hard?”
The season which celebrates how God was pleased as man with men to dwell, spoke to me of the true meaning of the fullness of time, in which our God, un-coerced by the demands of the world responded with love. Christmas allowed me to interrogate the sense of necessity, compulsion, and responsibility I had taken on.
As Aristotle explains, there are many kinds of necessity. There is that which is simply necessary, such as the law of non-contradiction. There is that which is necessary for mere existence, such as food. There is also that which is necessary for the best existence, such as love, freedom, friendship, and mercy.
The necessity I had imposed on myself, the schedule, the fullness of time for which had calculated, was beginning to squeeze out that which is truly needful. The fullness of my schedule was beginning to seem pretty empty. I was beginning to feel like I could hardly breath, or like I had been holding my breath for too long and had misjudged how far I was from the surface.
During that Christmas service I became free to ask:
- What if I didn’t finish up those extra shifts on the schedule I had imagined?
- What if I don’t even triple next week?
- What if God wants me to start the transition into study and greater leisure right now?
And suddenly I was present in the true fullness of time. God had returned to me the Christmas season I had almost lost. That night I had dinner with a family from church, and today I have had time to write. I will make up those shifts at a slower pace, but also more certainly, depending on God as provider and not on my own plans and powers.
I don’t know what it will look like trying to write while teaching, studying, and doing some extra shifts here and there, but it is my hope, and even an expectation, that in God’s time, I will find room for all things truly necessary.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!