Thursday, November 12, 2009

Great Expectations

Ever since I entered college, I've wanted to be a Resident Director. I moved to South Korea after graduation because that's what the Lord wanted me to do (and it was a great way to still be involved in student development but overseas). After two years there, here I am. I've finally "arrived" as an RD. But what happens when what you've dreamed and prayed about for so long isn't what you expected?

Expected. What a strange word. Why do we as humans generate these typically unfulfillable thoughts in our minds? Why do we set ourselves up for mostly assured disappointment time and time again?

I remember having a meeting with my RA staff my junior year of college. One of the girls posed the question: What do you hope to be doing 5 years from now? "Of course, I want to be an RA at Black Forest Academy in Germany and be working with MKs OR an RD somewhere." Well, I'm one year away from that 5 year mark and I've done close to both. I did the overseas RA thing. I'm doing the RD thing now. But what's strange to me is that I'm not magically content just because I'm doing something I always dreamed of.

Why, you ask? Because I'm finally to a point in my life where I'm not letting myself be defined by what I do. Wow. That was a tough sentence to write. In college, I became the "Res Life, worship leading, gig-playing, poster-child on a Billboard, has is all-together" girl (although my friends knew me as the girl who couldn't say no to anyone and needed to please everyone). I LOVED college. Then, I moved overseas and I was the "crazy one who moved to Korea" (or to my friends in Korea, I labeled myself the "musical one who was dating Dan Gurley". I LOVED Korea. Then, I was plopped down in St. Bonifacius, MN without a single friend in a 300 mile radius and I'm now the "new RD", plain and simple. I don't LOVE it here. What has changed? Why such a disconnect when I'm doing something that I'm called to? (learning that just because the Lord has called you to do something doesn't mean you'll love it is another lesson altogether)

Looking back at my time in Korea, around the middle of September during my first year, I began to hate it. I was feeling pain of community lost (from college friends) and the harsh reality of rebuilding a life for myself. People didn't know me in Korea. They didn't know my talents, passions or story. I was ready to leave. But community started to kick in. I started to really get to know my fellow RAs and discovered a deep sense of belonging that I didn't think I would ever feel after college. When I moved away, a huge piece of my heart was broken as I pried myself from the community I had grown to depend on and love.

It's now November of my first year as an RD at Crown and those pains that were so real to me in the beginning of my time in Korea are even more intense. Because unlike the pains from Korea, these pains haven't subsided. They have only intensified. The harsh reality is that I'm not surrounded by a community that will automatically take the time to get to know me, my talents, my passions, my story. Nobody here knows my fiance. One of my co-workers today just found out I was engaged. I've gone from being known to being unknown and that is a painful transition. A transition that I've experienced before but lasted only a moment. This one, I fear, is a long-haul, spiritual make-over and I'm not sure that I'm ready.

But back to the whole "not being defined by what I do" thing. I have to hand it to the Lord, He knows how to break 'em. And He's breaking me hardcore. All the things in my life that used to define me have been stripped away. Now I have only my career to define me and if that's the case, I just won't survive here. So where does that definition come from? Christ? Well sure, great Sunday school answer, it always comes from Christ but...then I realized. For me, it hasn't come from Christ. I don't even know what finding your identity in Christ looks like. It's such an ambiguous thought. All my life, I've been looking for others to place their definition on me and I've lived through that to the fullest. But now that "others" aren't present in my life, I'm lost. This isn't to say that I go the whole day without talking to anyone, because that's not the case. I have a couple co-workers that I would consider friends and RAs that I oversee but for the most part, once work is over, it's me, my empty apartment and my rattling thoughts. No fiance, no parties, no large group outings...just me.

So, does the fact that I don't know how to find identity in Christ make me a heathen? Well, I'm daring to say "no". I would even be so bold to say that a LOT of Christians don't know what that looks like or how to grasp it. It's more than just speaking the trendy words, reading the latest book or citing Scriptures. It's an intense denial of self so much so that "Christ-follower" becomes the only label that resonates within. If I'm a "Christ-follower" first and foremost, then being a worship-leading, gig-playing, poster-child will look minuscule and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

I'm not there yet. At the risk of sounding pathetic, I still curl up in bed some nights, weeping in loneliness and brokenness. I am mourning the death of "IWU Sarah" and "Korea Sarah" and struggling to embrace "God's child-Sarah". One who isn't defined by others or jobs- for those are temporal definitions that will lead to a never ending-cycle of self-mourning. But "God's child-Sarah" will never need to be mourned. For while my community, friends and job may change, my status as "God's child" is one of permanence and that's an expectation that can afford to be "great".

In closing, I want to clarify that people need community. It's how God has wired us. I NEED people in my life to encourage me, to uplift me and to just spend time with me (and do the same for them in return). But while that community is temporarily lacking (and I'm trusting the Lord that it is only temporary) I've been able to truly examine myself and uncover issues that I didn't know existed. The absence of community has lent itself to the presence of inner vulnerability. And for that, I am learning to be grateful.