Sunday, February 10, 2008

Into the Desert

Dontcha just hate it when you spend your Sunday morning stewing about something and then you get to church and Whap! God hits you with a sermon that seems to be addressed only to you and your problems? No, I don't hate it, I actually think it's pretty cool. And it happened again today, as it often happens to me.

See, it occurred to me that my package from GTU probably doesn't include health insurance. And since the stipend - which is the best they can do, and I do appreciate it, but - is only a couple hundred a month, health insurance will pretty much take care of it. So I'm back to having a generous tuition-free offer, but still not sure how to actually pay for rent, food, etc. The baby complicates everything all the more - in a simpler time, perhaps J could have stayed down here where his jobs are and commuted up on weekends or something. But that won't work with me being a full-time student. Even him getting a job up there would be probably offset by the cost of childcare while we're both indisposed. So in addition to the huge factor of how we'd find a place to live that we could both afford and fit into, there's now the matter of finding insurance (hopefully the school has a plan I can glob on to, otherwise, I never qualify on my own b/c of my depression history) (fortuntely baby can be covered by Medi-Cal, at least she'll be OK) as well as J needing to find a job by January when our savings will run out, and there's the cost of moving. It's looking more and more like additional loans will be necessary. And I hate that. You know we are nearly $70,000 in debt already with student loans? That could buy a house in some parts of this country (no parts we will ever live in, probably, sadly). I don't think it's wise to go further into debt. And I have been advised not to join a PhD culture where students aren't fully funded (w/liveable stipend).

So I was mulling all this over on my way to church and getting increasingly frustrated. And then we heard a sermon about Adam and Eve and temptation. Temptation being that which draws you into self-reliance instead of God-reliance. Temptation is to choose a different perspective on the world than God's. Temptation is to desire to make judgments (good or bad?) on the world rather than accept the garden of delights laid before you (ie take life as it comes, trusting God to take care of you and send everything you need - actually kind of a Buddhist-tinged approach to life).

Yeah. I started to realize that my temptation is to stay in the security of my home city here. To stay where I know we'll have steady income (even though that means J never has time to finish his dissertation). To not jump into a new place where we'd have to start over socially, ecclesially, even sort of academically. It would be so much easier and safer to stay would allow us to rely on ourselves. Because we know we can take care of ourselves here in Pasadena. But we absolutely have to relinquish control to move to Berkeley.

I felt clearly that the message was for me to jump into God's arms. I mean, GTU was what I hoped for - it's what I prayed for. And they gave me the best they could. It's not the easiest option or even the "best" for us financially, security-wise. But in the long-term, it's way better for both of our careers. And I think it will be better for us spiritually as well.

After church I went to a guided meditation on entering the desert (it's Lent, you know), on purifying the heart so we can see God. And in picturing the desert and what I would be leaving behind to go there, I realized that entering a desert you must leave behind your security - your shelter, your comfort, even food and water. You leave behind everything that you can provide for yourself. And you step into a place where God, for whatever reason, has said God will meet you. But you have to let go of your own self-reliance, your own desire to judge what is best for yourself, even your knowledge of what's good and what's bad. It's about removing everything that you provide that sustains you so that only God can sustain you.

It's terrifying. And in a way, it's very exhilirating. Throughout this Lent I'm going to think on this. It might be that there is a garden of delight waiting for me if I step into this unknown. And the fact is, I can't know what's there until I go see. All I know from this side is that when I was there, it felt exactly right. And they want me, very much. And I prayed that exactly this would happen - that I would be offered the absolute most generous offer they could make. All of this happened. How can I not trust God to be there when I go?

Oh, and here's another thing: watch out how much Christology/soteriology systematic theology you read during Lent. I've been doing tons of reading on the cross, and I'm starting to get a glimmer of what it all means. It's finally falling into place. But what happens then is you're in church and it's time for Eucharist, and you start singing "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," and you really realize what that means. All the theology that your brain has soaked up explodes in this torrent of gratitide and awe at what God did for you. And then you cry a lot, and people look at you.

So I'm just warning you. This is what systematic theology can do.


janinsanfran said...

My partner is getting a PhD from GTU and gets her health insurance through them. It is from Kaiser and is fairly reasonable, considering that health insurance is unreasonable.

Nattie said...


I appreciate your post and this is EXACTLY what Eric and I have been going thru these past few weeks. We've struggled with the whole health insurance stuff and it seems that both Eric and I have stick with cobra (once I leave) due to the fact that I'm pregnant which is considered a pre-existing condition and since Eric is an expectant father he now has a pre-existing condition as well which means that no insurance company will insure Eric and I until after the baby is born. The reason being for Eric is that if something should happen during labor then he is legally responsible and no insurance company wants to deal with that so the general rule is no insurance until after the baby. So, we're stuck with cobra insurance that costs $880 per month. It's jacked up system (putting it nicely).

All this to say is that we decided to postpone our move until October/November since there was no way that we could afford this. We told the guys out in Denver about this situation and they said that they could get a donor to pay for it and I didn't trust that God could provide this. On Friday, we've found out that someone has graciously offered to pay for our insurance until the baby is born. Of course I couldn't believe this news but on the other hand I knew God wanted us to trust and just go forward with our move.

I'm still in a predicament on whether to move (June) or wait until the baby is born (God willing in Sept) and I've been reluctant to move for many reasons, but every single time we've had obstacles they have been overcome by amazing miracles that no-one could fulfill but God. So, I now I have to ask this question to it my own fears and wants that is postponing our move or is wise to trust God and move because evidently this is what we're supposed to be doing? Obviously, there still one last factor (is it too high of a risk for me to move) but once we find out from my doctor on Wednesday if it's ok to move, then I think I just need to let go of my fears and desires of wanting to stay in Pasadena, being with friends, having the job security, and just trust that God is in control and everything will come together. This is a lot harder to act on then to just think about doing this. I'm not sure if this helps but I thought I would share with you what we've been experiencing.


Marshall Scott said...

Well, Beloved, you have confronted one of the hardest questions when trying to live in grace: can we take "Yes" for an answer? Believe me, I don't underestimate either the importance or the cost of health insurance (both of my sons are single men, living in Oakland; and one is a contractor, so he pays his own way....). At the same time, you're quite right: to go into the desert - into the unknown under just about any circumstances - means we can't know, much less control, what we face.

I'm praying for you and J and for your health - and for wisdom and clarity.