Prior to the onset of COVID-19 in February 2020, I was one of over 100 employees who were offered a retirement incentive and yet I really wasn’t interested.... as, working in a public school district has amazing benefits (lots of sick and vacation time, being part of a great retirement system, pay increases based on years served, same days off as the students... It wouldn’t have dawned on me to leave unless: I had something better lined up, or had it not been for God physically moving me to work at home, via the pandemic. He allowed me to experience the contrast of being in a healthier work environment (at home), to my workplace in the office which had gradually become a very dark place; but I’d been clinging to hope that “they” would change. I’d been in denial not realizing how much I’d become affected, and that the challenge of overcoming was greater than I.
Psalm 18:16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me. God knew differently and orchestrated every detail, rescuing me without me knowing I needed rescuing. And so, during the pandemic, three days prior to the May deadline I reconsidered the retirement incentive opportunity. I completed the application (just in case) and made a pros and cons list (to figure “it” out); the only con about leaving was the money. I hadn’t used the majority of the vacation and sick time I’d accumulated. I turned down many vacations or cut them short. What was my reason? Was I “saving for a rainy day” which had been ingrained in me since childhood, or was I in financial fear? Or was I so self-righteous that no one could take care of my “stuff” while I was off? Or did I feel safe in my little hole that was becoming darker and deeper? Trying to figure “things” out no longer mattered and is not God’s will; Trusting greater is; and I was reminded that God can work in anything, and I decided to retire from a place where I’d worked in various positions for 30 years.
Psalm 18:28 Lord, you light my lamp; my God illuminates my darkness. God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself. He made me open and willing to walk where He led. And during the process, I realized He was giving me courage and strength to walk into the unknown. He placed people in my path to walk with me and taught me to trust and share my fears. Instead of running from them, I started looking at my fears and began to embrace the changes God was bringing. He was redirecting my focus from “them” to Him first, and then to me.
I left that job feeling “not enough”. During this past year of refreshing and recuperating, I discovered more of who I am, and am learning to be true to the person God has created me to be. I was blessed to find a local hiking trail that feeds my soul, and learned to crochet, to play pickleball; I did a lot of gardening, donated a lot of “stuff”, became part of a BCC prayer group, and worked on things I’d been avoiding for years. And then I began wondering, what’s next? On a few occasions, I minimally looked for a job. I was reminded of what “they” say; “dream bigger”, “more is better”… Some of “them” suggested not applying for a lower-level job, or for less pay. Who are “they” and “them”? How to not be affected or influenced by others is challenging. We are affected. Being overly concerned about what others thought and viewing myself from “their” perspective distorted my thinking and trapped me into striving to portray myself acceptably from their point of view.
Whenever I’m at a loss I always go to Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God. This scripture grounds me. From there He made me aware of scriptures I needed to hear. Through much prayer, meditation, journaling, and seeking the Word and His will, I realized over time that I’d been putting their view of me before His, and I asked for His forgiveness. And He was already freeing me from self and from “their voices”.
One morning I was meandering in my home and felt drawn, and bored, and I felt this desire to go back to work. And God brought an opportunity to my attention that I hadn’t sought out. Everyone assumed I retired permanently, and I’d almost begun to believe that, too. And yet they were stunned when I accepted a full-time job working at a Christian elementary school that pays half of what I’d made before, with no holiday or vacation pay, minimal sick time, no retirement system, and it’s the same long drive. I was stunned by my decision, too, and yet I walk on this campus and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. I am drawn to something I can’t explain, and I know that this job is a gift! I get to be blessed by serving in a community of disciples, enjoying continual fellowship, being blessed by hearing the word in ordinary conversation, praying together; I will get to attend chapel weekly during the school day with the staff and students, including our granddaughter who attends there; whose transformation inspires me daily. I believe God brings us new opportunities. I’m reminded of Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
In this new job, I realize the feeling of not being “enough” still visits me. It’s fear-based. Another awareness that comes to mind is my tendency to “avoid” responsibilities at home. When I call these by name, God enlightens me. I breathe Him in and breathe me out. This morning He presented me with Acts 17:28 In him we live and move and have our being. He’s brought two newer qualities to me over the past year or two: “risk” and “change”. Maybe God is replacing “not enough” and “avoidance”. They may always be a part of who I am, but He calls me holy and blameless and He changes my perspective. Risk and change used to terrify me and yet God has given me the courage to embrace both. I heard “them” say, people don’t change. And I believed that. But today I believe differently.
God changing me gives me hope for others. It gives me hope for my many family members who don’t believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That was me at one time. I’m learning that the change in me can be the change in others; that if there’s hope for me, there’s hope for them. Without having to preach, or convince or explain or force, the new me gets to walk through the doors that God opens without trying to figure “it” out. I don’t have to walk through the doors He opens, but I get to; and what a privilege that is. Every day another person asks me, and why aren’t you retiring? I can’t put my reason into words yet I know I’ve been led and I’m grateful to follow. Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”