Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Addressing My Faithlessness: I am Not God

Well, friends, we have eight more weeks until the next member of the McGowin family is expected to make her appearance. In real life, this means we have anywhere from six to ten more weeks to go--because babies are finicky about when they choose to enter the world and rarely arrive "on time." This means that I'm going through my share of anxiety and trepidation about... well... everything. There's so much to worry about with a new baby, you know? Money. Time. Space. Work. Physical recovery. Sibling rivalry. Etc. Etc. Etc.

My worries are only multiplied by the fact that within a few weeks of her birth, I'm going to be back in the classroom at the University of Dayton--both as a student and a teacher. I'll be taking a doctoral seminar of my own and beginning my first year teaching the freshman level, Introduction to Religion course. In this class, I'll be teaching about 25-35 18 year-olds about Christianity and religion from the perspective of the Catholic intellectual tradition (literally, Bible to 21st Century in one semester). I'm excited about all of this, of course. I love what I do and am blessed beyond measure to get paid to do it. But, the thought of adding a new baby to the mix is more than a little daunting.

To be honest, my recent response to the anticipation has been anything but ideal. As I have attempted to imagine what the fall schedule will look like and how we'll manage to get everything done and still be a family, I have been quite fearful, actually. Fearful, anxious, and... frankly... faithless.

All of this came to head for me this past Sunday as I worshiped with our church. Despite the dark, menacing clouds of fear that I have created around me, somehow a bright ray of light managed to break through and remind me of God's faithfulness. Sitting in the pew on Sunday, I had a illuminated slideshow taking place in my mind's eye, showing me scenes from the past year (and years) where God has provided even when I doubted. Here are just a few highlights that bounced through my head from the past year:

- Ronnie left a well-paying position last February out of firm conviction, without any back-up job or other source of income. In the few months that he looked for work, we never missed a bill. Also, we managed to hold onto our house, despite the fact that we could no longer afford it, while watching a number of our neighbors go through foreclosure and/or eviction. And, the church continued to provide health insurance for us until William's birth, despite the fact that they had no obligation to do so.

- William was born May 5 into our newly uncertain life. Even though it was a rough first few months adjusting to life with a baby, Ronnie and I made it through stronger than ever (as cliche as that sounds). Now, over a year later, we still love each other, still like each other, and still play on the "same team." And, William is healthy, happy, and growing like a weed.

- In August, I started my first year as a doctoral student at the University of Dayton. Just a week prior to starting, I was still debating whether or not to go through with it. Ronnie still didn't have a stable job and the pay for my graduate assistantship was going to be one-third of what I was making in a full-time job. But, mostly at Ronnie's insistence, I took the plunge. Somehow, we had the money for books, a parking permit, and all the necessaries. William survived the adjustment and Ronnie began his new adventure as a part-time stay-at-home dad.

- In October, in the middle of the school year, when Will was six months-old, we sold our house--a feat in itself in Ohio!--and bought a house in Dayton. We downsized just about everything about our life and moved within walking distance of UD. And, in the transition, I never missed an assignment and (more importantly) William never missed a meal.

- Now, as of June 1, I have finished my first year in the doctoral program. All told, I have read approximately 2-3 books a week since August, written four research papers, taken and passed an oral and written exam in biblical studies, and managed not to go insane. Meanwhile, Ronnie has grown into a wonderful full-time father and gotten a perfectly suited part-time youth ministry position at a church nearby.

I know that in the scheme of things, these events are quite paltry. Certainly, there's nothing especially "miraculous" about anything mentioned above. And, in light of what others have come through, my little examples of God's provision are pretty unimportant. Moreover, I should point out that there are countless people for whom the money wasn't there when they needed it, the house didn't sell, the work didn't come, and the kid didn't stay healthy. I realize that, too. And God is still God even in those situations.

But, at the end of the day, I view the following excerpts from our past year as the manifestations of God's grace. It certainly can't be credited to me. For most of this journey, I have been a self-absorbed, fretful, whiner, looking for the easy way out. And yet, God has been good to us. For this I am grateful and must give thanks.

On Sunday, as I marveled over what we've come through this year and reflected on my current state of anxiety and faithlessness, I realized that to worry and fret about the coming weeks and months as though I have control over any of it is tantamount to asserting that I am responsible for what's come to pass over the past year. That is to say, if I am responsible for tomorrow, then I am responsible for yesterday, too. And that, my friends, is not the case.

So, even though the point I have to make is very basic--so much so that we "experienced" Christians should have it mastered by now, right?--it seems important to my discipleship to Jesus right now to make it anyway. I am not God. God is God. God has provided for me in the past. God will provide for me in the future. Neither is my responsibility and neither is to my credit. Soli deo gloria.


Gary Snowden said...


Thanks for sharing the update on the things that God has been teaching you about His faithfulness. I, too, find it easy at times to fall into the rut of worrying about the pressures of ministry, the many needs of others as well as providing for my own family, etc. Thanks for the wonderful testimony of God's provision for your needs.

Blessings as you begin teaching the introductory religion course this fall, and especially as you anticipate the birth of your daughter.

Anonymous said...

You will do well. You're uniquely made for it.

Rick Garner

Anonymous said...

Read Psalm 37 and don't fret - God has you! I know you know that but it is good to refresh yourself in the Psalms once in awhile!

Steve said...

I just had to giggle, EHM. Yeah, YOUR faithlessness. Oh, yeah - topic #1 with God & the angels last week. Ha!

We all look like sunshine partiots compared to HIS faithfullnes. So his all-star in Ohio is missing a beat? You're EMILY. 'mon, girl.

Oh, and ditto the Psalms. Should you be rushed into a hospital just so you don't die, remember the Psalms. btdt

Anonymous said...

"For most of this journey, I have been a self-absorbed, fretful, whiner, looking for the easy way out."

I don't see this at all, Emily.

I see someone who is an inspiration.

'All will be well.'
Remember that. :)