February 8, 2016

i'm doin' me

"Let each person lead the life that the LORD has assigned to Him." -- 1 Corinthians 7:17

In the past few months I've been thinking about what is assigned for me to do. As some of you know, I had the privilege of working with some of my favourite people in the world over the past couple years. In the fall, I stepped away from my role working with youth who have been removed from home and are trying to find themselves, who have found themselves before a court of law. 

I learned so much with them and from them. Working with them was truly a privilege. 

Even though I no longer work with those youth, with the distance of a bit of time I am trying to have a look at what I learned over the time I worked where I felt the most useful in my whole life. Will I return to working with them? Where am I "assigned" to offer my best/all/gifts? 

My experiences with these youth was equal parts a joy and a real challenge, since the youth needed so much more than I could ever find in myself to give them. They needed home. They needed hope. As I wrapped up my cases to hand them off to the next worker who would be taking over my 'cases', I was discouraged. I felt that my efforts had been insufficient, my energy was depleted, and mostly, I was pretty heart-broken. Stepping away was necessary for many reasons at the time, and God provided me a great job to be able to pursue further education

As I am back in school and working part-time, I am looking at a few things that have cropped up in the last few years of work/heart life that I am working on sorting out in what feels like a pivotal year for my 'next steps'. 

-- figure out who you are working [so hard] for. the truth is that your best will sometimes not change anything about the circumstances of someone you are trying to 'help', and sometimes working hard it will only make people like you less. in other words: people are going to disappoint you, set your sights on a steadier footing. a great book I'm reading currently is "Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership" by Ruth Haley Barton - and that has been a gift. 

-- where's the balance? yes, the work/life one. when work is knowing the unspeakable has happened, that people are aching, that their joy is gone, and life is happening all around in my own experience. how do i engage with friends at dinner, enjoy community spaces, and live as a whole person whose experiences have intersected with the great pain of others.

-- what's the game plan? should my heart be on the defensive or offensive? I am very sensitive -- I feel things very deeply. this could be seen as an asset or a liability in my line of work. do i go the way of the traditional, veteran social worker (no offence to anyone, just have been privy to some stereotypically sad cases) -- with calluses and wounds of years in the business, or do i stay soft, and feel the waves of pain as they come along within the stories and injustices and brokenness around?(even if it levels me?)

-- acknowledge and embrace brokenness. one day about 8 months ago I sat with my Spiritual Director after one of the youth i had worked closely with was stabbed and sobbed. she asked if i thought I should consider not doing the work I was doing. maybe, she said, i wasn't made for this. maybe my heart was too sensitive. but maybe, too, i was made for this, and my brokenness was a gift that helped me better understand God's heart and hurts when it comes to the stories that were so grieving me. 

Jordan and I often sing a line of a song to eachother these days-- "don't be mad 'cause I'm doin' me better than you doin' you". but, really, that's sometimes the hardest part, though, isn't it? figuring out what doin' you really requires. 

From the looks of it, I've got my work cut out for me :)