A New Faith in Persistence

I’ve not been too sure about where to start the past few months.  It has been some serious “in-between” time for me.  I have detected nothing of import or interest materializing before me; my dreams seem to list on the edge of fantasy while I go through the motions of living in a place that doesn’t, superficially, hold too much of relevance.

I have plenty to talk about, for sure.  I’ve been angry at our health care system.  I worked for a month to get a special prescription for specific glucose test strips pre-approved so that my reading would radio transmit to my insulin pump to make data recording more seamless.  I got the strips – in a quantity that I will exhaust in 10 days and cost me double what I would have paid without insurance buying them from Amazon.  Seems the doctor didn’t communicate what a “90 day supply” meant.  Maybe I need to write a treatise on Type 1 Diabetes for health professionals.

I worked to get a second opinion for my medical condition, had my husband take a day off of work, etc., only to be told that my initial treatment is the best there is.  I’d like the women out there to think about this: if you are growing facial and stomach hair suddenly, and you want to get pregnant but can’t take the treatment while trying to get pregnant or while pregnant, is this the best that can be done?

I’m furious that our local rivers are so polluted I have to breathe through my sleeve while crossing a two-mile stretch of I-95, while the EPA makes no moves to enforce dumping restrictions or clean-up on the offending company producing the effluent.  I’m pissed that Trump talks about forcing the Mexican government to build a wall along our southern border and that European nations are turning their backs on refugees.  I’m pissed about the possibility that Trump could be our next president.  Every time someone gives me a reason it can’t happen (he’s only got 33%, not enough for a majority!), I feel my cringe face go into effect because they’re jinxing the outcome toward the reality mogul.

NOTE: I can’t complain about the basics.  On Maslow’s hierarchy, I’ve got most of the bottom covered.  I even work my way up to the second or third level of the pyramid on my good days.  This weekend I get to dance zouk ALL WEEKEND.  Bliss.

So why am I not making more progress – with words, with dance, with my health?  Life, it would seem, has given me plenty to say and do about plenty of things.  Yet my reactions are aimless anger and inaction.   And so I have been left wondering, what is wrong?  What holds me back?

In this quiet period in my head, I’ve taken a lot of time to try new things and read material I otherwise might skip.   Even more specifically, I joined a Bible study group (which I give mixed reviews), I’ve begun volunteering for a local organization serving the homeless, I’ve been studying up on how to approach the publishing industry, and I’ve started teaching a Spanish class for my church.  I found some new doctors, I started dancing West Coast Swing.  My husband and I even entered Financial Peace University, a course devoted to money management according to Christian principles.  Maybe you’ve heard of Dave Ramsey.  Maybe not.  It’s like being 16 all over again.

I think  I’m finding the answer, in the most unexpected of places for me, a spiritual agnostic of utmost vaguery.  Our pastor has been holding a sermon series about prayer the past month, which uncharacteristically engaged me in the act, for at least five minutes a day.  Then for Bible study, we are reading Adam Hamilton’s “The Call” about the life of Paul the apostle.  A year ago, and perhaps even six months ago, I’m not sure you could have interested me in the topic.  Study of the Bible was, in my opinion, a sure sign that you were headed toward close-mindedness, judginess, and conceit.

Strange indeed it is for me to now concede that through the lessons of prayer, of being called, of Christian money management, and of the apostle Paul, I believe that insofar as my problems can be attributed to me, they are caused by a crisis of faith.  Hear me out: my crisis of faith is no secret to my husband, who married me knowing well that I had no desire to be roped into the groupthink of Christianity or any other religion.  It is no secret to my closest friends who know that my agnosticism is convenient because it can’t collide with my political principles as I’ve set them up in my head.

But I am beginning to admit that I might have been wrong in rejecting God on a level beyond the Jung-ian, “a priori” soup of souls.  I am beginning to see that my crisis of faith is not so much about  exactly what I believe as it is about my lack of persistence in life.  This part is what would likely shock most people who know me well, even my mother.  Most people would describe me as hardworking, disciplined, diligent, reliable, if even a bit intransigent.  So where have I lacked persistence?

According to God as revealed to the Apostle Paul and just about everyone I’m studying in the Bible, from Abraham to Jesus, I’ve lacked this key quality in everything I’ve ever undertaken.  When I was young, I’d pray to God for him to take away my diabetes.  He didn’t.  Eventually, I gave up praying.  Surely, if He didn’t do it, it wasn’t that I was asking for the wrong thing, it’s that He was not terribly powerful.  When I was a pre-teen and teenager, I rode horses competitively, on a big circuit.  I did okay.  But then I had an argument with my coach, and I convinced myself that I wasn’t really in love with horses anyways.  And perhaps I wasn’t.  In short, at 16, I sold my horse and gave it up.  I wasn’t the top rider, and I sure didn’t want to work as hard as the top riders did or invest as much to become the top one.

In college, I auditioned for two a capella choral groups and was rejected from both.  Rather than try to start my own, or improve my singing, I found a different venue where I could sing in a less solo fashion.  I only got the gig after proving that I could blend my voice in with the group’s.  Some might say I didn’t give up here, that I simply found a way to continue singing in a place that was more suited to me.  But it didn’t feed my soul the way soloing would have, so if I’m honest, I gave up.  After college, I didn’t apply to UN internships or do anything that would have allowed me to get close to the stages where simultaneous language interpretation actually took place.  What a dream!  Instead, I taught high school, because I could get a job.  In my defense, a job with health coverage was pretty important, because I’m diabetic, but jeesh, I hate how that’s always my defense.

After college, I held three jobs at three places in four years.  There were always “good” reasons for the change.  However, it’s hard to become an expert at anything you only do for a year.  I took up ice skating for pleasure and found I was good at the basics.   I even became part of a synchronized skating team.  But it got tough around the the flip and the sit spin.  Rather than skate three times a week, I pulled back.  Then I went to grad school for public health, which made ice skating really tough to schedule, and I didn’t like my new ice coach anyway.  (Anyone seeing a pattern here yet?)

In case anyone is wondering, yes, I worked in public health for almost six years post-grad, but again, spread across three different companies.  I never got promoted.  Why did I leave?  I’m not right for corporate America.  That is most certainly true.  Why am I not working for a non-profit?  No good reason, other than I started to realize that working for working’s sake was just that, and my soul was empty.

Luckily, by this time, my husband was in the picture, and encouraged me to pursue writing.  I wrote creatively in high school and college, but I never would have thought of making a living at such a frivolous activity.  (Read Max Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” and you’ll understand that I was raised to believe such words, even though I am not much of a capitalist most days, and the only part of the protestant ethic that remains in me is “ethic.”  “Protestant” was dropped from my self-descriptions a long time ago.  Maybe I’ll have to reinstate it.)

So I wrote a book.  Literally.  I sat down last April 1st, and started my novel.  I’ve now completed it twice or thrice over.  I’m now learning that the art to writing a novel isn’t in the writing of it, it’s in the persistence of re-writing it ten times without desisting or fainting from your own boredom of trying to imagine the characters doing anything different or any thing differently.  In my writing life and in my honest prayer life, I’m learning that I give up as a default, instead of fighting for what I really want and believe in.

Perhaps the only exception to this rule is marriage.  I dated for fourteen years before I met my husband.  In all that time, I didn’t give up believing that the right person for me was out there, waiting to be discovered.  I may have stopped dating for months at a time, but I always returned to the arena, waiting to run from another lion.  In short, it paid off.  Once I found the best person for me, I took the “love is a decision” motto to heart, and I’m happy I decided to commit to it every day.

My husband has been the most positive and rewarding part of my life.  He has changed me.  I have allowed him to change me.  He’s brought in his faith, his patience, his doggedness, his steady hand, and with little more than his extraordinary example, he’s changed me.  He has never rubbed my past failures in my face, perhaps because he doesn’t think of them as failures, like I do.  He just moves forward.  It has been a good time to adopt his example.

I asked him last night if he thinks I’ve changed at all by opening up and going to church with him, taking the lessons to heart, and starting to pray on my own.  His answer?

“You’re more deliberate and thoughtful.”

These words that others have used to describe me all of my life but never rang true took on a new meaning.  If he’s right, they will lead to persistence.  And if all of the publishing agents are right; if the Apostle Paul is right; if God is right, persistence will change the world.

 

 

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