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Thursday, March 27, 2014

My reaction to stress

I have decided that on this occasion of my 24th birthday, instead of spending the next 30 minutes doing the dishes before going to work, I will do the Roblog:

In times of trouble I tend to stop communicating with the people around me.

This is not because I don't need people in general, or want to keep my problems super-secret, but because I am more introverted than I usually show.  Dealing with people is draining for me, though not as much as with the serious introverts.  (They are the ones spread out over there not looking at each other.)

As much as I like writing, sometimes the idea of spreading my mind out on a board and pinning it up for display is not as attractive as it sounds.  But I believe that doing so lightens the soul, and perhaps helps to lighten the burdens of others.  So...

In October Horyon found out that her teaching contract would be renewed for at most one year, perhaps not even that.  She also found out that there was another job opening at the school at which her father used to be the principal.  Check my post from November for details.

From the time of that posting, the stress kept building.  She passed the history test (short lived relief), and started prepping for the English and Teaching Pedagogy tests, which were scheduled for the same day and made the history test seem relatively simple.

When she came home from the big test, I thought it was behind us, but it clung to us like a vicious spider monkey, pulling our hair and snatching the food out of our hands.  For starters, the online forum in which the people who took the tests discussed their answers, the grading, and all the other details of the test.  The test-takers were allowed to keep the pages with the questions, but the grading of the test is a black box out of which comes only a score.  If I hadn't been living in Korea for so long, I would have called it unbelievably unprofessional.  So call it cungly unprofessional.

I felt like we had just finished a marathon, stopped for a breather, and heard the sound of hounds at our heels.

Eventually we found the the results were a typical mix of good news and bad news:  the bad news was that her score was not good enough to be hired as a permanent teacher.  The good news is that none of the candidates were good enough to be hired as permanent teachers.  The resulting bad news was that three or four of them were hired, and the administration decided to make one or two of them permanent after a year of seeing how they work.

As a mother who wants to spend some time with her children during the week, Horyon is at a disadvantage.  Some of those candidates are staying until 9 p.m. every day to show their dedication.  Horyon has been put in charge of testing for freshmen, a data analysis and preparation job that will keep her busy this year.  It seems that if she knocks this one out of the park she may be made permanent.  She found a way for me to help her chances as well:  twice a month I will be teaching a Saturday "club activity" class at her school.  It will be students who signed up for it, but everyone has to sign up for some activity.  I have no idea how this will be, other than busy.

My goal is to take this job as a blessing, and a chance to bless Horyon.  If I am there, she can be home with the kids, and her school won't ask both mother and father to come on the same Saturday.  I haven't had to wake up early on a Saturday for that yet, so it's still pretty easy to be positive about it.

Just stopping to breathe here.  I hate going whiny on you like this, but I promise that there is a silver lining coming up.

In addition, God has taken an opportunity to teach me about what I should pray for, and which problems I should not worry so much about and trust to God's good will:

I am planning to take Maxine and Quinten to Kansas this summer.  By myself.  Horyon just can't get away for long enough during the summer to be worth an $1800 plane ticket.  Even so, I had little idea how to pay for the tickets.  We have money in the States from the sale of our former home, but spending a big chunk of it like that is tricky, and our credit card here was maxed out.

Did you catch that "was"?  It's important.

So instead of praying about it, I decided to do something about it:  I committed to teach at an elementary school this year, twice a week for four hours at a time.  It would have enabled us to save enough money to pay off the card, freeing up the card to buy plane tickets, and pay off the plane tickets by mid fall.

One week into the semester and elementary school job, Horyon got her severance pay from the high school at which she just finished working.  It was almost $9,000.  Enough to pay off the card and pay for most of the plane tickets.  It took a few days for it to sink in, but I eventually realized that God had answered the prayer that I was supposed to be praying, providing for a need that I took upon myself to take care of.

And now I am paying the price.  The elementary job is not too hard, but eight hours of teaching each week, plus an extra hour or so of commuting by bike (doubled if it's raining and I have to take the subway) means that I have to teach two night classes at KIT, so Maxine and Quinten are spending more evening time at Horyon's parents home, not with me or Horyon.  It's actually more accurate to say that my family is paying the price for my lack of faith.

Now for the silver lining:

The stress of the past six months was becoming unbearable.  I have also been witness to two more couples, friends of mine, going through marital difficulties.  I was crying out to God, gravitating to the Psalms about how much life sucks, but also how gracious God is through suckiness (my paraphrase), when a friend recommended a book called Sacred Marriage by Gary L. Thomas.  (It's only $3 for the Kindle edition at Amazon right now!  I paid $8 for it!  If you are married, or think you may be married sometime, go get it!).  It changed the way I viewed marriage in general and my marriage specifically.

I'm not sure if I ever thought of my marriage as a chance to be a servant. I considered serving my wife to be something done as a quid pro quo, part of "the deal" of marriage:  I serve you, you serve me, we serve the kids, and hopefully they take care of us when we're old and even more feeble than we are now.

Just a contract, of sorts.  And of course it was built on love, and in front of God, and all that, but those were just details.  During the past few months I have come to learn that those details lead to the greater potential truth of marriage: it is a series of opportunities to better see myself and my sins, my selfishness, my pettiness.  The way Horyon knows me is still just a shadow of the way God knows me, but it's closer than anyone else has known me since I was young and living with my parents.

Let me reassure my single friends that it is not my intention to say that you cannot reach spiritual maturity without marriage.  But for me, living single was leading me down some self-destructive paths that I may never have left without Horyon.

I am having serious trouble putting this revelation into words, people: I am finding that stress on our marriage is breaking me to God's will, rather than just breaking me.  I am turning to God, rather than my wife for basic sustenance.  And I know, I knew that depending on people rather than God was a recipe for disaster, but there is knowing at an intellectual level, then there is knowing at the gut level, where you make the snap decisions.

Our life is not perfect, but God is good.

I still have no claim to understand God.  Now we see God dimly, as in a dirty, scratched bare metal mirror.  Then we shall see God face to face.  But prayer, reading the Bible and taking counsel from those wiser than I helps me to polish the mirror, maybe bang a dent or two out.

I need to get going.  I've gone well over my allotted 30 minutes, and will have to rush some food before starting class in 42 minutes, but my birthday feels more complete for taking the time to let you know how I am doing.


kerry said...

Thank you, Rob, from one introvert to another. I'm getting an inkling of a hint of a far away rumble of how God uses marriage to shape us. But our kids are a bit younger than yours. Going to find Sacred Marriage now.

kerry said...

Thank you, Rob, from one introvert to another. I'm getting an inkling of a hint of a far away rumble of how God uses marriage to shape us. But our kids are a bit younger than yours. Going to find Sacred Marriage now.

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.