Sunday, March 19, 2006

No career change yet. Sorry about the last posting...

... but I did warn you.

OK, so about a week ago I was thinking about a possible career change. But now I'm not any more. Basically I think I woke up.

The lovely Carol tutors at our girls' high school some days. When she tells me what happened, it makes me think I could never do that. She tutors some kids in English as a Second Language (ESL). These kids, who didn't grow up speaking English, need to pass the high school exit exam. It's in English, of course. But they can't be bothered to actually pay attention and do the exercises to learn the language. I could absolutely not do this -- short of a miracle in my life and attitude. I'd rather wait tables -- at least at a restaurant the customers want some food.

What I feel like is... if there's a kid who wants to learn a subject -- ideally math or computer science -- but is having trouble... then I might be able to help with that. I will have to talk with someone about this.

I had lunch with a couple of friends the other day. I'll use pseudonyms since I don't have permission to use their real names. One of them (I'll call him "Sean" in honor of St. Paddy's Day) is a new Christian who has been reading the gospels. In Luke 6, Jesus says:
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (6.53, NIV)
So how does this work, Sean asked. Do we have greater or lesser rewards in heaven? Another friend, "Andy," pointed out that if you have no expectation of getting something back, you'll have a more relaxed life, which is a reward here on earth.

Cool! I had never thought of that, though it seemed obvious once Andy said it. I mentioned a time in my past when I used to talk to students about Jesus, and one of them asked me if I thought my reward in heaven would be greater because of what I was doing. Well, I would have liked to tell him, "No, I'm doing this out of completely selfless motives," but the New Testament says that "each will be rewarded according to his own labor." (1 Corinthians 3.8). Not that my feeble attempts were going to get me much...
The real reason I was doing it, by the way, probably had a lot to do with the expectations placed on me, and my desire to do well in this group. But to be fair to myself and to the group, I think we all believed that God wanted us to talk to students about Jesus, to discuss their [non]beliefs -- to present an invitation to meet Christ. And some of those young students did give their lives to Jesus.
Anyway, Sean ended up deciding that Jesus recognizes our human nature (e.g., wanting rewards) and that Jesus doesn't rebuke us for it; he's willing to work with us as we are. It was a real thrill to hear Sean come up with that. Very cool.

We talked a little more about that passage, and Andy talked about how he tried to apply it in a situation at work. He tried to pray for this "enemy" at the office, but felt frustrated about not being able to really do it. So he did a brilliant thing, which was to ask God to help him pray for this guy. A meta-prayer! And it worked!

Now that, as I told Andy, was something I should have done back in Japan with an office "enemy" who crossed my path. I remember seeing him in the cafeteria one day, eating alone. He seemed a pitiful character. Part of me knew I should go and sit with him, but I also felt so hurt and angry after some dealings with him that, well, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I felt weak and miserable. What kind of Christian was I, anyway? In that instance, I was a prayerless one.

That was Thursday. What a great way to spend the lunch hour! We taught each other, we shared some successes and some perplexity, we prayed together. None of us knew all the answers, but we encouraged each other. At the end of it, I said, "I know what I was made for."

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