"Work like you don't need the money,
love like you've never been hurt,
dance like noone is watching
live like it's heaven on earth."
Last week my Bible study took me on a wonderful journey….it meandered through childhood premises held too long, up and over mountains of self-doubt and weariness, and shed new light on vistas reached in the darkness of wandering along by feel…not by sight.
I remember hearing grown-ups talking about how they would work hard, make money, spend wisely, save lots, and retire…and then they would be happy, having fun, living the dream. Everything was geared towards that goal. Hard work (i.e. a salary) was the path to nirvana…retirement.
I started my adult life with this goal. Graduate from high school with honors, get a scholarship to the best university, go on to graduate school, post graduate studies in a field I loved, get a teaching job, save lots of money, retire and write….in between these steps I would have romances, get married, travel, dance, have children, be a super-mom (translate: teach college, campaign for public office, bake cookies, dance and write poetry…all while tan, trim and wearing tastefully attractive lingerie to keep my husband's interest in me alive...I did say this WAS my fantasy superwoman life...didn't I? One that girls and women have been sold for decades...but that's "a whole 'nuther" story girlfriend..snap, snap, snap, wave...). Back to today's train of thought...
Well…my plan got hi-jacked early on. I graduated from high school with honors and got that full-ride scholarship to my choice of universities but when dad passed on that same year I skipped a few steps and went straight into a combination of work hard, be a full-time surrogate mom (with my mom…I had seven younger brothers and sisters), go to school part-time, and earn money…but in this plan there was nothing left over for savings…retirement was out of the question. So we worked.
I worked to have money so that we, as a family, could have what we needed to live….I worked so that we could live…in a home, not hungry, clothed, with lights and water. Eventually we all worked so that we all could live, go to school, reach our potential, succeed. Thanks to our socialist upbringing, I now believe we were hard-wired to accept the philosophy that "nobody wins until (and unless) everybody wins." I actually think it is part of our DNA…a little motto inscribed on some xy chromosone that forms and defines the cellular memory of each molecule in our hearts.
But I digress…(that was for you Clifford!) last week's Bible study led me to question the formula for success that defines life as:
Work = salary (money)
Money = having what you need + some for savings
Savings money = retirement
Retirement = no work
No work = success in life
Well, I conceded early on that it was unlikely I would ever be on this success track. With a mom, seven brothers/sisters to partner with, and as a career educator my earning would, quite probably, never reach the point where all the family's needs were all met and I had some left over. I was grateful to be in a profession that if I worked hard as a teacher and eventually as a professor, and published as an academic, retirement might never be required. This became my goal. But even this left me still feeling like somewhat of a failure because I didn't know how I would ever get "there"...wherever "there" was. I had accepted my path, but it didn't feel like success.
Then in walked God, in a real and life-defining way, and my plans were scattered like dust in a whirlwind. Without as much as a side-long glance, I left my career as an educator and started serving Him. I began working for my church in whatever way it needed me, while making myself publicly available 24/7 as a spiritual healer. That was over 20 years ago and I've never looked back...although I have to admit that there have been times (especially in the beginning) when fear of poverty, an old car on its last legs, another night of rice and peas, and a stack of bills made me long for the security of a salaried job and a regular paycheck.
Last week I realized that what I had done, without ever even realizing it until last week, was accept a new paradigm. One that is defined in II Corinthians:
"…ye, having all sufficiency in all things
may abound to every good work."
I had given up the:
Work in order to have,
Have in order to retire,
Retire in order to not work
equation for success.
And accepted a new one:
I have all sufficiency from God
So that I can work..forever!
Work is my goal, my love, my success…I love my work!
I am no longer working so that I can eventually have something, save for retirement, and stop working. I have all that I need each moment...from God (sometimes in the most surprising, charitable, and remarkable ways)...so that I will never have to stop working. God had, by sending me on this rather circuitous...and rugged...journey, wrested from my vise-like grip a singular strategy for reaching what I thought was the only acceptable model of success.
Yea!! I've discovered that it really is true, as Eddy says in Science and Health:
"The very circumstance, which your suffering sense
deems wrathful and afflictive,
Love can make an angel entertained unawares."
God's love for me...expressed as an abiding sense of love for, and responsibility to my family, and eventually my unwavering love for God...led me on a journey of discovery more wonderful and enduring than any other success plan I might have come up with. God leads each of us on a path that reveals more and more of His omnipotent love...for some that may very well look like the work, have, save for eventual retirement model...so that they can pursue "work" that they love, or whatever they desire. I am just so grateful that He has given me work that I love today, since I plan to do it now...and forever...