I find making decisions difficult. I’m someone who likes to ‘cover the bases’ – think through all the options, take my time to weigh all the pros and cons before I arrive at a decision. Yet all through the process, I remain painfully aware of the limitations of my own knowledge, the tenuous nature of my own wisdom, the blind spots that are ever looming just round the corner. Sometimes it seems like just the easy way out to play the ‘faith’ card and say I’ll leave things in God’s hands, though I know that true faith is not the absence of thoughtfulness. True faith stands upon the wisdom of God – it depends on finding out as much as we possibly can (‘due diligence’?) in terms of secular knowledge, as well as the specific, revealed will of God for my life in that particular moment. Faith is required when what we know and can find out seems to fly in the face of what God wants us to do. But that’s not my problem right now. At the moment, I’m up at 4am writing this because for me, it’s all up in the air what God wants me to do. Faith requires intimacy with God. Abiding in Him and keeping the communication lines open even when the ‘marching orders’ are not yet clear. Faith means trusting that He cares enough about the specifics of my life, and how it fits in with His plan for the world, to guide me in making decisions that will give my life meaning in this life and the next.
So these are the specific issues I need faith for right now:
Much as this break from work to study has been pleasant, I can’t quite relax because this is a pivotal point in my life and in the life of our little family. The main question is whether I should continue to pursue my career, or fully invest in staying home to nurture my family. I guess for some time to come, it will be a combination of both as we work out care arrangements for Noah while Galv and I figure out how to pursue our own aspirations as well as earn enough to provide for the family. But the question is what I should eventually be working towards – and different narratives are pulling me in different directions.
There’s the idea that maybe I shouldn’t have to choose. Why not do it all? At least in black and white, there is the provision for me to work part-time, all through Noah’s growing up years. Why shouldn’t it be possible for people to do well at work, AND be fully present on the home front as well?
Then there’s the narrative of how this ‘you can have it all’ (or ‘you SHOULD have it all’) idea is just a myth, perpetuated by the feminist movement. There’s little use exploring how both fathers AND mothers can be released from their workplaces to nurture the family because ‘there’s just something about mothering that is different from fathering’. Children need a ‘well-watered garden’ to grow in, and this is something moms do. They ‘water gardens’. Dads need to give kids time too, but their role is different and perhaps doesn’t require the kind of 24/7 attention that garden tending does.
Then there’s the narrative I’ve had for the most part of my growing years as I moved through elite schools. The message that ‘for those who have been given much, much is required’. I am well aware that both in school and now at work, I’ve enjoyed a privileged position. Opportunities have been given, and significant investments have been made. I feel I need to give back – and I’m not sure if pouring all my resources into my own family is doing enough for those that might never have the opportunities that I and my family have and will be given. Many are disillusioned with our education system, but if all who see the faults are speaking from outside the organisation, who will be left inside to try and change things? And yet it seems so daunting to even try and step into those shoes, to make my family bear the cost for the somewhat flimsy belief that I can change things. Even as giving my family my time and energy is important, I would like to give my children a legacy too. I would like them to have the awareness that this world is bigger than ourselves, our friends and our family – that there are others who can benefit from our resources too.
And then there’s the question of whether institutionalised education is the way education should be delivered, anyway. As I examine the rhetoric of our education system, where we’re now trying to shift the focus to values-driven education, it scares me how little space is being left for the home to be that learning place for children. I think it’s a chicken and egg issue where schools are trying to plug the gaps of things that are not done at home as parents get busier in the rhetoric of having to ‘work harder to provide for the family’, which leaves even less time for things to be done at home as children are simply kept occupied with school activities throughout their waking hours.
Are government officials and politicians even the best people to determine the directions for education? So much thought about education is being driven by thinkers who come from the business world, and people are making recommendations based on what they think future generations will need to be able to earn a living and do well in their economy. It’s funny ‘cos all the people who are meant to be planning and teaching kids how to survive in a world of transient opportunities all have the most stable jobs in the economy at the moment. If I want my children to grow up with a Kingdom view of things, with Christ as King and this world as His Kingdom, is it the best decision for me to be investing in making the secular education system ‘better’, and allowing my children to be educated within a system that is shaped by the state and the world economy?
Education itself can sometimes seem to be going the way of the dot.com boom or life sciences boom – we encourage everyone to aim for a university degree as a stepping stone to success in life, in the absence of a strong link between education and employability. What you potentially end up with is a whole lot of people who are more highly educated than needed for the jobs which are available. That wouldn’t be so bad if not for the tendency for people to feel less satisfied when they have to settle for jobs which they are overqualified for. Maybe we really shouldn’t be letting education be driven by economy. But if not economy, then what?
Only God knows where I need to fit in these various narratives. An old saying from Sunday school boils it down to say that only three things really matter as they stand through eternity: God, the Word of God, and the souls of man. These are the things that I’m holding in my heart and mind through this season. Even as I write this, I have the nagging suspicion that maybe these questions will never go away and I will have to answer them as best I can all through my life. In that sense even the idea of crossroads is a myth – the idea that we can ever just make a single defining decision, and be done with it. Nonetheless, maybe now I can try and get some sleep for tonight.