Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Going Through

Yesterday, someone asked me - so, now that you've finished your PhD what are you doing?  I wanted to correct this person and say, no, I don't have a PhD, I have an EdD.  I knew this person thought that my degree of EdD was useless and that only a PhD will do... he is an academic elitist and quite arrogant.  I opted to ignore the PhD part of the question and just answer him.

Even though I'm not still working as a teacher I said - I've been teaching at a Technical College.  I'm sure that in his mind he was saying tsk tsk, a technical college.  If I told him that it was a proprietary school that taught welders, electricians, HVAC techs, and a variety of medical programs I am sure that he would have thought - what a waste of time.  I don't like arrogant elitist people.  I think that's why I loved teaching at the school where I've pour my heart into for the last year and a half.

By most standards, I'm considered well off.  I live in a nice house, in a nice small community.  I drive a Mercedes (used and older) but nonetheless, I have a Benz.  I get my nails done regularly now.  I won't let just anyone touch my hair - in that regard I'm almost snobby.  In the last five years we have finally reached that place that when a bill is due, it is paid.  Even my credit score has gone up.  Life is good.

I'm still the scrappy girl from Brooklyn.  I'm the girl who wore hand-me-downs and whose father was a janitor.  I'm still the poor single mother.  I remember having no food and standing in line to get it.  I remember getting my box filled with commodity butter, peanut butter, green beans, and even canned beef, chicken or pork.  I remember... I remember well.  

Food Stamp coupons
What a wonderful day when your food stamps came.  I never had an EBT card - I would receive large envelopes with monopoly type money - food stamps in the mail.  Or sometimes we'd go to a bank and the bank would give us our rations. 

Change for specific grocery stores
The grocery stores even had fake change that you had to keep track of so you could use every penny of your food stamp allotment.  Everyone knew you were poor - everyone saw you with those books of Food Stamp coupons.  Everyone saw you fumble to make change with fake money.  It was better than not eating.  I managed my money well and fed three children. Without those Food Stamps I'd never be who I am now.  I'd never have been able to get through school, alone, a single mother, with three children. 

I remember the hot August days of standing outside The Wardrobe in Columbia MO for new free school clothes for my kids and voucher for new free shoes.  Everyone knew what you were there for -- everyone knew the line was forming so children could get new clothes for school.  Tuesday was the day you could shop for free with a referral - a referral meant you were officially poor.

Not all of the students where I worked were poor, or single parents, or on welfare - but some where, most were there to better there lives just like I did when I scraped together every possible resource and went to school.  I saw myself in many of them.  Frequently when I'd share that my biggest accomplishment was a GED - they would smile and start raising their hands and say ME TOO Dr. J, ME TOO.  The single moms knew I knew what it was like to go to school as a single mom.

The conversation wasn't over with the man who asked me "Now what?"  I said I also pastor a church.  His response jarred me.  It didn't surprise, but comments like his always jar me.  He said "Oh there is better money in that."  He proceeded to tell me a story about a man who made a good salary as a president of a university but left it to pastor a church because the money was better.  I don't know if that's true - I rather doubt it - I don't know if the man who left the university was driven with a passion and a call for ministry or money.

Sadly, church and ministry have that reputation.  It's all about the money.  It's all about mega-churches and offerings.  It's about driving a big car and living well.  If you give, you'll get.  The bigger the church, the bigger the success and the bigger the salary of the pastor.  Later, we hear of sin and failings by these some public ministries.

He was wrong again.  I don't pastor for money.  I pastor because of passion.  I pastor because it is what God called me to do.    We seemed to have lost the idea of sacrifice, self-denial, and holiness.  We pour our hearts, our time, and our energy into success rather than being with the real folk - the folk like my former students or the folk who worship in a small church.  

And I guess not surprisingly my thoughts turned to an old song.  As a child I sang this song and wondered about being one of the Lord's despised few. We are no longer dying to self.  We are no longer sacrificing and giving all.  

As for me - I'm going through.

Lord, I have started to walk in the light
That shines on my pathway so clearly, so bright;
I’ve bade the world and its follies adieu,
And now with my Savior I mean to go through.
I’m going through, I’m going through,
I’ll pay the price, whatever others do;
I’ll take the way with the Lord’s despised few;
I’m going through, Jesus, I’m going through.
Many once started to run in this race,
But with our Redeemer they could not keep pace;
Others accepted because it was new,
But not very many seem bound to go through.
Let me but follow my Lord all alone,
And have for my pillow, like Jacob, a stone,
Rather than vain worldly pleasures pursue,
Than turn from this pathway and fail to go through.
Come then, my comrades, and walk in this way
That leads to the kingdom of unending day;
Turn from your idols and join with the few,
Start in with your Savior, and keep going through.

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