Lately I’ve been experiencing wild mood swings: elation to fear to hope to dread to depression to pride. And while part may be peri-menopause, most is due to having a real-live senior in my home, a senior who’s applying to college.
No matter how I’ve tried to abstain from an addiction to academic prestige and achievement, an addiction that comes from my family—a family with 8 Ph.D.s (of which I’m the 8th), a family where all my siblings attended Ivy League schools (but not me), a family where I’m the only Tuan girl not to attend Stanford Business school—I keep falling off the wagon.
I know all this is about me, not my daughter, yet my illness affects her and our whole family system nevertheless.
A perk of my job is that periodically I receive spiritual guidance from very wise folks. So on a plane to Albuquerque, I was given a guide to meditate on around the theme of “Faith.”
Despite following Jesus since age 3 and serving in campus ministry for 23 years, I’m just not very good at faith. I’m a born skeptic. When I think of faithful folks, I think of someone who glows their way through hard times (while I tend to whine), someone who hears God’s direction easily (while God’s voice gets drowned out in my busyness), someone who believes God will do big miraculous things. . . that actually happen.
We were instructed to read Hebrews 11—the “Hall of Fame” of faithful Biblical characters and reflect on one of them. I chose Sarah, Abraham’s wife, mother of the Chosen People. After reflection, Sarah gives me a lot of hope. Because she looks about as faithless as you can get.
- Rarely to never hears God. Her husband Abraham hears all sorts of crazy stuff from God (move, give the best land to your nephew, kill your son) but Sarah hears pretty much nada.
- Creates her own hare-brained plans in response to God’s direction. We need an heir? Take my servant Hagar, impregnate her, and voila an heir!
- Whines and blames others when her own plans go awry. When she’s unhappy with Hagar lording her pregnancy and child over her, all of a sudden it’s Abraham’s fault. (Abraham’s a wimp here—he says it was her idea and she can do whatever she wants—which means she abuses Hagar so badly Hagar runs away)
- Laughs and doesn’t believe when she finally hears her own word from God (or 3 angels who say she’s going to have a son even though she’s entered menopause)
How does such a faithless woman get into the Faith Hall of Fame?
Maybe because she keeps on trucking with God (and Abraham) even through disappointment, heartache and transition. Maybe because she still makes love with Abraham even though she’s “well stricken with age.”
As I reflected, I realized I don’t actually know many people with my vision of faith. But I do know multitudes who are incredibly faithful.
These faithful move towards God and others despite life giving them lemons. They may not have a clue how to make lemonade—but they keep trusting God’s promise to never leave or forsake them and Jesus’s word that he came to bring good news and abundant life.
In the midst of death, divorce, addiction, emotional wounding, sickness, and just simple disappointment, they keep their faces turned towards God. They are my heroes.
So pray for me as I continue to wrestle with my demons of academic idolatry, as I keep trying to renounce the idea that my child’s life will be bad if she doesn’t get into some name-brand school (or more that I’ll have failed as a mom), as I try to believe that God’s abundance will not be hampered by school name, GPA, SATs or even my fears.
I believe. Help my unbelief.