The Taser's Edge


Being Safe and Noticing I’m Safe

This is the week after the one when I officially turned down the two job offers I received.  The major part of me is glad that I have made it official.  There is also a part of me that really wants to know what’s next.

The major part.  While in the past I have spiritualized calling right out of the world, right out of my body, one of the major things I have learned and lived into in recent years is to understand circumstances as under God’s control as well.  In some ways, I was working up to it.  For seminary, I applied to Duke and Princeton, and I got into Duke.  But I knew I was going to seminary (by the time I got accepted, not when I applied).  For residency, I applied to UNC and Duke, and I got into Duke.  But I knew I was going to do a residency.  (Actually, that’s not quite true.  When David H called me with the offer, I thought I should have already figured out what I would do, but I hadn’t yet found the answer in myself.)

This time round, there were many more visible variables.  I wasn’t sure whether more CPE, more chaplaincy, or more church experience was the right route, although I knew I wanted to continue toward supervisory training.  I wasn’t sure how to know where was the right place to move for Holly to get a job.  I wasn’t sure how I would know what placement was the right fit, especially after being offered one job on the basis of a phone interview.  My greatest fear was not that I wouldn’t get a job, but that I would get a great offer in a place that wasn’t right for Holly.  Case-in-point: KC, Mo. is a dry spot for teaching employment, even in comparison to the rest of a nationwide arid environment for teachers to find jobs.

My understanding of vocation.  Spouses are called into the unity of a marriage.  Therefore any other calling God has on their lives is a call to, through, and in that new unity.  At the same time, both members of the marriage have their own callings; they are not one homogeneous blob.  Thus vocational discernment within a marriage is hard work, but it is worth it.  The shorthand phrase I keep using in talking to endless people about our decision to stay in Durham is, “The offers just weren’t right for us as a couple.”  (And that is where I place the emphasis.)

The dissent in me.  I use that terminology because of Supreme Court season being on.  Especially after a while in CPE, with plenty of patients who insist they’re okay, and who I don’t believe, I was suspicious of how well I have been adjusting to this new reality—Durham.  Really, though, I feel peace.  I feel like God’s guidance was in the circumstances, made known in conversations, made known by the Spirit to my spirit.  That is not to say I feel that my footing is totally secure.  I feel some confusion, some anger, but I also know I am safe, and that is the bigger part.

The practice.  Over the past few months, as CPE has taken more of a toll on me, and as I have failed to notice how little fuel and energy and drive I seem to have left, one thing which has fallen away was both self-care and spiritual discipline—praying the hours.  In the summer, I was gung-ho about it, even a bit obsessive.  In the winter months, I found myself more interested in reading plenty of things other than the Bible.  Prayer happened, but irregularly.

There is no condemnation in saying all that.  In fact, seeing it gives me another warning sign of compassion fatigue/burnout for the future.  Spiritual disciplines and the drive or interest to do them falls apart as my spirit is fatigued.  It was Holly who suggested that I might find better anchoring and a better sense of being grounded if I were to return to those practices.  A week into them, she was entirely right.  Actually, one day into it, she was entirely right.

I have spoken in IPR, IS, and conversations galore about how this year of CPE has helped my faith.  Because of how many rooms I have entered where I knew God was present, but the family/patient/visitors felt only abandonment, I have come to believe much more strongly in God’s faithfulness and in God’s presence in all things.  The joy and strength of the particular spiritual disciplines through which I find life is not that I need to do them in order for God to show up.  It is that God is always present, but that I slowly lose the eyes to see God when I move away from the disciplines.  Praying the hours is a way of checking in, of resting back on the backbone of the universe, which is the I AM, noticing that God is still in, with, and under all things, including me, my life, and my job offers.  And that God is the one who suffered with us forever and died on the cross.


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