*I Wrote this over two years ago, but didn't post it. Looking back, I feel the same - even stronger - about heeding the call of God, and it's now time to tell the story, even though the ending isn't written. Posts to come about what's happened since I wrote this, enrolled at Butler, have graduated, and the lessons I've learned along the way.
Not long ago in an email regarding an extra-challenging student, I raised the question, “If I keep getting better, why does it keep getting harder?”
Today I figured out the answer.
I just finished reading this outstanding book on the topic of non-linear leadership. In it the author talks about the importance of challenges. Challenges keep leaders stretching and growing. Challenges keep people who want to be extraordinary from growing stagnant. Challenges breathe life into organizations by calling on our deepest reserves of problem solving and creativity.
Challenges, I now realize, are one of the things that fuel my fire and ignite my passion. I’m not sure why I didn’t quite get it in this particular way before since I over-analyze everything including myself, but I didn’t.
Now it’s clear:
I really do need just enough challenge to make me continue to stretch and grow into who I am supposed to be, but not so much that it makes me break.
I get it.
It’s not just my perception – every year it really does get harder even though I keep getting better. And that’s exactly the way God designed it to be so that I would stay. He keeps giving me new challenges on purpose. Challenges designed to develop me in the particular ways He wants me to grow. Challenges that force me to become who I am destined to be.
Five years ago I started a business. I didn’t plan to. Nothing about my doing it made sense. It left a lot of people scratching their heads. I guess I needed a challenge.
Not long into it I was doing well. It was attractive in a way that school wasn’t in that when I met the challenges or exceeded them, as I almost always did, I was well rewarded financially and otherwise. Soon people started asking me why I was still at school. The income was very, very large and some of the very same people who were scratching their heads when I started the business were now scratching their heads because I was still teaching. I had to constantly answer questions about why I was teaching when I could afford to stay home, when I led a big team, when I seemed to live two opposing lives. People couldn’t get it.
To the friends and family (and even strangers) who asked those questions, my answer was always the same: I still feel called to be there and until I feel otherwise called, I’m staying.
And while I did believe that answer was true with all of my heart, some days – on the hard days, I didn’t really even understand it myself even though I believed it.
The fact that I was still teaching defied logic. I just knew in my heart that doing anything other than that would be wrong. But I’ve made some really fantastic decisions based on faith, not logic.
I stayed because something deep inside of me held me there like an anchor to life.
Something kept me at school that was more than new markers and my deep love of office supplies. It was something more than adorable kids who say hilarious things. It was even more than the adrenalin rush of a spontaneous lesson that bubbles up out of no where that is one of the best, most creative and engaging lessons you’ve ever taught, while producing this incredible work that you had no idea your kids had in them.
It was something deep in my soul. The still small voice of God whispering, “You were made for this. When you do this to which you are called, you use every gift that I so carefully placed in you. When you do this you leave the legacy I planned for you in deeply impacting kids’ lives. Doing anything less causes you to rob yourself of your own destiny.”
Probably some people at school viewed my dual life of business and teaching as a sign that I didn’t care anymore, that my loyalty was divided. The truth is that it was crazy that I stayed at all. Because of the business I didn’t need the money. I would’ve come there to teach every single day for free.
Many times destiny defies logic. Its fuel is passion, your very heart and soul, burning to create you into who you were always meant to be anyway.
A few weeks ago something started to stir deep within the core of who I am. That always makes me nervous…it always means something big is about to happen…and it always involves a heck of a lot of work. But that spark started to flicker and one day I woke up with a clear thought in my head and determination in my heart: I want to be a principal.
What if I am supposed to be the first drop – the one that starts the ripple effect that causes an impact so large and powerful that I have yet to imagine it? What if I have been preparing for this very moment for my entire life and I hadn’t even realized it?
I’ll have to give up my business. I’ll have to give up the perks I love that go along with the business. I’ll have to make space and time in my life to go back to college to get that additional license I’ll need, and that means giving up some other activities that I love in order to make room. I have a lot to learn. There’s a lot of growth that still needs to take place in me. There’s a lot I don’t know. A lot.
Part of that makes me sad. Part of it makes me scared. And frankly, part of it makes me sick to my stomach…But mostly I see how the business, as well as every other thing I’ve ever done in the last 40 years, has been the perfect beginning training ground for what’s next.
I don’t expect to be handed anything.
I expect to work my fingers to the bone.
I expect to miss what I’ll have to give up.
I expect the work, the process, the journey to be hard.
I expect to make mistakes and to learn unbelievable leadership and life lessons along the way.
But I also expect myself to live in a way where I heed the call God places on me. Even if it means doing a 180. Even if it means having to let go of some things I love.
And I expect the biggest challenges of my life. Not only do I want them, I’ve learned that I need those challenges in order to thrive.
Bring it on.