Sunday, January 25, 2009

alternative school

My most studious pose.

I am a school person. I love... well, I guess more accurately, loved school. Being a hyper-analytical person, I have of course analyzed exactly why I love(d) school so much.

1. I am a people-pleaser, so I liked having teachers and doing my best to please them.

2. I tend to judge myself based on whether I can perform up to a certain standard, so I loved tests because they gave an exact number value to my performance. (Incidentally, I think this is also why I loved swimming - at the end of the race you have a very precise number, down to the hundredth of a second, that tells you how you performed. Yes, I know I'm sick.)

3. I love to delve deep into subjects and soak up as much information as I can. I guess that's just a wordier way to say that I love learning.

I never thought I would be done with school after a bachelor's degree - I always expected to go to graduate school of some kind. Life hasn't played out that way so far, but God knows the desires of our hearts. Even beyond that, His word says that He himself gives us those desires, and that He satisfies them. I've prayed about going back to school (whether to go, when to go, what to study, for what purpose to do so), and presented this desire to Him, trusting Him to satisfy it in His time.

Then the other day, I noticed something. God is satisfying that desire, but not at all in the way I was expecting. To explain what I mean, let's look back at the three reasons I gave as to why I love school (1. people-pleaser, 2. performance evaluation, 3. learning). Over the years, God has been working on my people pleasing tendencies and my performance-based self-worth. He has been breaking down these two areas of weakness in my life, areas where I do not have the "mind of Christ." I am still a work-in-progress, to be sure, but I am starting to lose the taste for A+ grades and student-of-the-week status (see my post here for more about that).

As those things fade, I'm still left with a growing thirst to learn more, to engage my mind in new subjects and ideas. Going back to school would be a great way to satisfy that yearning, but it's not the only way. I am noticing all the teachers that God has put in my life -- pastors, artists, musicians, book-lovers, thinkers. Some of them are old friends, some new friends, some just acquaintances, and others are total strangers with great websites or free lecture downloads.

Because of these people and their influence on me, I find myself attending an 'alternative' school of sorts. There is recommended reading, the occasional field trip, and I even got to study abroad. There are no grades, which helps me avoid the temptation to judge my performance by some standard or work only to please others. The only papers I have to write are these blog posts - markers along the path to remind me what I've learned. Maybe someday I'll go back to school in the traditional sense. For the time being, I am totally satisfied by God's gracious provision.


Sabrina said...

This is a great post, and you have no idea how timely it is. It sounds like we are exactly alike in that way. I never got my degree though...I dropped out of school when I got pregnant with my first child and have never gone back. It really bothers me. I think God will make me wait to go back until my motivations are not bound in self-worth. Keep writing...I'm reading. :)

Carissa said...

I too have that desire to learn things, although I don't put much stock in paper diplomas or the approval of others. Since I don't care to have a traditional job ever again, I can get away with that. Maybe. ;)

BTW, Sabrina is one of my very best friends. Check out her blogs! I think you'll like them.