Friday, September 6, 2013

Finding One's Self When Life Sucks

Sometimes, it's impossible to deny inspiration.  I wrote and scheduled this post before I found out on Tuesday that my job was being eliminated.  I guess the post and title are more appropriate today than I realized when I wrote and chose them.
One of the central paradoxes of the Gospel Jesus of Nazareth preached is that to find one's self, what someone thinks of as "self" has to be lost first.

Most people never understand that paradox fully in this life (and I am one of those most people when it comes to understanding it "fully") - but I gave up trying to find myself within an organization a long, long time ago. Instead, I have focused on helping others find themselves by encouraging them to find ways to lose themselves. My personality lends itself to that, but my experiences also have helped me understand a little better how wonderful it can be to lose myself within a group.

I want to share a story here that I hope will clarify what I mean:

Long story short, I had finished most of 11th Grade math by the time I left 7th Grade, but my rural junior and senior high schools had no idea what to do with someone in that situation - so I repeated 3 1/2 years of math until my class reached in 11th Grade where I had been individually in 7th Grade. One of the reasons I came to accept that situation is that in 8th Grade, I had a math teacher who couldn't teach. He knew the math, but he was a terrible teacher.

I had two choices: focus on myself and pout or focus on the rest of the class and teach. I chose to teach - and I found my life's love of teaching.

I did about four weeks' worth of homework in one night, then, when the teacher finished introducing the material to the class and went back to his office, I got up, actually taught the concept in a way that the other students could understand and walked around the class helping individuals with the problems that were stumping them. I was, in practical terms, the teacher of that class. Literally, in a very real and powerful way, I came to understand the joy and wonder that can occur when we put aside what we want individually (what we deserve and what "should" happen) and focus on helping others who aren't where we are get to where we are. Looking back on that year, I wouldn't trade it for the world.


I learned something important about myself and what I perceive to be an important principle - and what I want to focus on for the purpose of this post is that I learned it through an experience that sucked in every objective way imaginable.

It shouldn't have happened; the educators in those schools should have been more aware of me and my needs and done SOMETHING to help me; they had a professional commission and duty to do so; they shouldn't have "kicked me out of" the educational track I was on when I arrived; they failed miserably in fulfilling that commission.

I'm so glad they did. In fact, I think I'll be grateful eternally that they did.

I'm not saying that such an experience is right for everyone, and I'm not saying it's okay for people to screw up big time in the performance of their responsibilities, and I'm not saying anyone else should (or could) have had my own experience in that situation and been grateful for it - but I am saying there is a power in many Gospel paradoxes that is impossible to grasp until we're involved in a searing, unfair, difficult struggle that forces us to weigh competing ideals and discover there is real, important growth hidden in the struggle - a balance that is personal and individual and intimate and enlightening in our own efforts to find our own "I am".

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