When Lizabee graduated from high school in June, there was a particular line in her superintendent's speech that we've quoted (and, okay, mocked) pretty regularly in the Farrow/Boyett household.
The woman, who I'm sure jotted down many well-meaning cliches that could apply equally to all the seniors in all the county high schools graduating that Saturday, said to the class of 2012: "Don't pass up any opportunities. Take every opportunity you're given."
Well, what a bunch of malarky. We've of course played many scenarios in which the rising college freshman is offered a ride home with a stranger, or the chance to try a "magic" pill (What Opportunites! YES YES YES!) and of course, these scenarios only get funnier each time we reenact them. (I say, if a roofie joke is funny once, it's funny every time.)
I'm particularly reminded of the superintendent's speech this week though, since, in the past month, I've turned down not one but two (semi-)legitimate "opportunities."
The first started at the mall when a girl at Cosmo Modeling Agency asked if I'd be interested in setting up an appointment to have headshots made. I told her sure and followed through with it, since there was no money or further commitment involved. After my pictures were taken at the studio the following week, I met with the director who gave me a spot for the five hour photo shoot the following Sunday, and then told me that as long as I could pay $475 up front, I could just pay $50 for the next two years to ensure that my portfolio stayed online.
Now wait, I said this was an opportunity, and it really could have been. I didn't take it, obviously, because it would cost as much as sponsoring two children through Compassion for the next two years. But there was a time in my life where all I wanted to do was be on stage or in front of a camera. There are still times that I miss acting so much it hurts. And this is the way that lots of local agencies, just like Cosmo, run their business and pay to promote their members. For those who are willing to commit to it, modeling can make some money.
I never, for a second, thought about pursuing this once I found out what it would cost out of pocket, but the greater opportunity here was an appeal to my vanity. It was the chance to be resentful that I couldn't afford to have my pictures featured on Cosmo's website and to question the goodness of my Creator: that he wouldn't make a way for this to work out in my favor. This sounds quite obviously vain and spoiled and prideful, so let me present my second opportunity.
If not an appeal to my vanity, what then? Oh, right, my academia. Or worse. My love of people, and particularly outcasts.
I got into University of Louisville's Masters of Arts program for English! Yay!
I did not get a teaching assistantship through the program. I still don't really know why. I really wanted tuition paid for, but more than that, I wanted to work in the writing center doing something I love full time.
Last week, I applied for a teaching assistantship with the U of L debate team, and I got offered the position without an interview! (Well, okay, first they said they didn't want me. And then they called back and said their first choice flaked so the position was mine. Don't let me fool you.)
So, tuition reimbursement: CHECK!
Small monthly stipend: CHECK!
Working with smart, passionate undergrads: CHECK!
Driving up to eight hours, often through the night: Check?!
Starting THIS MONDAY (two days from now). Check...
Being told, more than once, that the atmosphere may be hostile toward certain demographics (of which I am a member, eg: white and heterosexual). Check Check Check.
The last one actually made me want to do this more initially. People who have been ignored or mistreated by society? And they need me to prove I can rise above the White Christian Middle Class stereotype?! Well, okay. Sign me up. Let me share unconditional love that offers peace and redemption.
So, why did I turn this second opportunity down too? Because it wasn't my mission field to take on. It turns out, this appeal to my love of academics, social justice, and broken people was not for me. It wouldn't solve money problems. We'd still have to take out a loan for Ben's school, even if mine was paid. It might not solve time problems, since I'd still have to have a second job to cover anything other than living expenses. And honestly, as I sought God's face and his answer, I received a resounding answer: You are called to love the broken and the hurting and the outcast. But not in this way. Let the warning that you'll be lonely and often rejected in this capacity serve to protect you from future hurt and frustration.
But God, don't you call us to persecution? To rejection for your name's sake? Even to poverty so that we depend more fully and fervently on you? I know that the times I've seen your hand of mercy the clearest are the times when I'm most desperate for your help. And shouldn't I be looking for ways to love people that aren't like me, even when I'm uncomfortable?
I've got to say, I don't have answers to that. I know that all those things are true of God and of me as a Christian. I have often prayed that I would be ready to face persecution and wouldn't shy away from places where I know I'll be rejected or mocked. But, for whatever reason, God has chosen to keep me from this.
I suspect it's because he's providing for me right now and isn't done with where I'm at. And that's fine, because I don't think I'm done with it either.
What the superintendent should have said was: Many opportunities will present themselves. Feel free to be choosy.