Finding Roots, Following Purpose

We acquire the strength we have overcome.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It’s not given to people to judge what’s right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong.”― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

“Don’t judge a man by his opinions, but what his opinions have made of him.”― Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Last night was the final night of a course I had been taking at the local community college in order to become certified as a preschool or child development center director. I already have my A.S. and this course didn’t transfer over in to my B.A. program; the only thing it did was get my certified. At first this seemed like a waste of time and money. But this class gave me exactly what I needed both professionally and personally. When I did my A.S. program it was at this same community college; now you can say what you want about community college (I watch Community too) but for me this college gave me wings. Without it I would never had been able to fly off to a four year college or be considering a master’s program beginning next fall. I made so many professional connections among both the professors in the Early Childhood division as well as among the students; many of the students who I graduated with were in this director’s class with me. It’s a small world at a community college, but it allows you to go far. Out of this college I was able to “land” my dream job teaching Head Start. At that point in my life there was nothing else I wanted to do but to teach Head Start; and I still love it.

As I left the early childhood building and walked to my car a multitude of thoughts filled my head. Whenever I leave that campus, that early childhood building, I feel as if I am leaving home. Truth be told I have often returned to that building and its lab school when I am low on professional enthusiasm and I need to remember why I do what I do. Teaching Head Start is not easy; it’s not all paint and smiles and laughter. I’ve been spit on, had chairs thrown at me, been called “dog face” by parents,been bit and kicked…it’s not easy. So back I go to my roots, the early childhood building and lab school in order to gain inspiration to carry on. That college and the professors there caused me to be who I am today as a teacher, and they still continue to be sources of support and encouragement and resources for ideas and professionalism (and send me student teachers too!). Without my beginning at community college and the strong early childhood foundation that it provided me I truly believe that I would not have been able to pursue my B.S. or even consider a master’s program. And though I love Head Start, I know now that it’s not what I am meant to do forever. It’s amazing how your roots are the foundation for all things, yet they grow and develop into something that is different than what you originally imagined. My roots have given me the foundation I need to become a psychologist. I have so many things I can do once I have achieved this…and I am so excited to be used as a psychologist wherever God sends me.

And while these may sound like personal aspirations to some they are personal callings in my eyes. I have been so bothered lately by those who seem to judge everything and everyone they see. I have read or heard comments about mothers needing to give up personal aspirations, or how tattoos are an epidemic, how wives and mothers need to be in the home, make this godly home-which is attained by spending all day baking bread (or something equally superficial-what does God have to do with baking bread anyways?), or children suffering from parents who work or go to school…I just want to scream: REALLY?! Way to make me feel like a totally horrible person in 2.7 seconds. You basically just judged and demeaned everything that I do…everything that I am. I have felt so defeated by these comments. I don’t understand why people feel the need to say things like this; especially when they are religious. As Christians we have no more of a right to judge others simply upon the basis that we think we are better than them. And really, where does this judgement come from except from the belief that we are somehow better? If I believe that tattoos are an evil epidemic and I do not have any of the evil things I therefore am construing myself as being better than those who have tattoos; I don’t have evil tattoos, so I am better than you. Judgement is passed. It doesn’t take much. I feel defeated. Constantly having to fight against the beliefs of people around me is tiring…even if they don’t come right out and voice their opinions their small actions and responses say it all.

Social influence plays more of a part than most people probably realize. Perhaps some of these people who cause me to feel defeated don’t even realize what their words, actions, and responses are doing. But the truth is, everything we do affects other people. In their book Social Psychology Aronson, Wilson & Akert talk about how even the presence of other people influence us. They also talk about how our thoughts, feelings, and choices are governed by real or imaginary approval or disapproval of those around us and by how we expect those people to react to us. Social influence has a phenomenal affect on our lives. I wish that people and their words, actions and responses did not have such an influence on my life, but they do. It’s part of this life that God designed. Although, if I were to venture a guess I would say that God designed us to use our words, actions, and responses in order to positively influence people instead of causing them to feel defeated. Although it is often appropriate to use our words actions, and responses to influence people positively despite our personal beliefs and feelings this rarely happens. And sin came into this world… now we have to deal with this feeling of defeat. So where do I go from here?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “what lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” So what does lie within me? To consider this, I have to go back to my roots. Not necessarily my childhood roots, but my young adult ones certainly. For me, those begin at community college. And when I go back there, either physically or in thought, I see what I am meant to be and what I am meant to do. To quote Emerson again: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” I have long known my purpose, though I have not always accepted it. I know what I am meant to do and meant to be, and I know that God has put this purpose within me according to his Ultimate Plan. Does that mean that this purpose is easy? Does it mean that I always want to live in accordance with this purpose? No! And certainly not when people cause me to feel defeated. Yet, I cannot allow what other’s say and think and do dictate the choices that I make. And in my heart I know that the choices I make are the ones that God wants me to make. Only I can know that. You can’t judge me for those choices as much as I cannot judge you for yours. We all have difficult paths in our life’s road; if only the things we say and do actually helped people follow God’s purpose for them instead of causing them to feel defeated. In the words of Fun “If you’re lost and alone, Or you’re sinking like a stone, Carry on, May your past be the sound, Of your feet upon the ground, Carry on. So that’s what I do. I will continue to teach, to be a working mom, to further my education; not because I am obsessed with personal aspirations, but because I am responding to the purpose for which God has created me to fulfill. I prefer to say it is a personal calling.

Not only did this class help me remember my roots and address my professional needs, but it gave me encouragement that I needed personally. It is amazing who God can use to give you encouragement. It may not always be someone who you know, or who is a strong Christian. He can use anyone (He can even use me). I needed that class, and more than just for the qualification it allows. I needed to be among people who are on the same path as me. While I would like to say that I do not need people…I do. Remember, the presence of other people influence us. We were designed for this influence; whether it be positive or negative. I am beginning to realize that yes, I do need people. But the people I thought I need are not always the ones that God provides. This was evident in my director’s class. It was so good to be among working moms; to share stories of our children and our other children (classes), to share professional and personal goals and dreams, to encourage and support one another as we pursued the knowledge and professional courses. Yes, sometimes God provides encouragement from sources we least expect, or maybe don’t want. I identifies with these strangers in so many more ways than I ever could have dreamed. I didn’t feel defeated among them; our common struggles provided common ground from which we could use our words, actions, and responses to influence each other positively. If you know what you are meant to do, but feel defeated in trying to do it perhaps it is time to examine the people you surround yourself with. And if you are part of the group w ho is surrounding another, consider the effect that your words, actions, and responses have on that person. We were designed to influence one another; I believe that God intended that influence to be positive.

Ultimately, it does not matter what other people think, do, say, or how they respond. If we are fulfilling the purpose for which God created us, nothing else should matter (even though it does). God is the only one who can offer judgement. And God is the ultimate source of encouragement, though He often uses others to provide this. I intend to follow my purpose, despite the opinions of others. I intend to be more like my daughter. In her young life she doesn’t acknowledge the influence that people could have, she doesn’t feel constricted by societal expectations. Instead, she does whatever she sets out to do. She wears her Minnie Mouse dress up dress to the grocery store, she happily says “hi” to all the grumpy looking people in the stores, she excitedly runs around public places with a grin on her face…she is full of life among so many people who seem so full of negativity. People don’t dictate what she does; if she wants to poop in the bath tub…well, she does. It doesn’t matter how gross she knows I think it is. If she wants to take fifteen minutes to walk all by herself from the car into church…she does. And yes, while some of her behaviors may be due to the natural course of development, the lesson remains: children don’t allow society and people to influence and dictate their every decision. They do what makes them happy. They live. So yes, I intend to be like her. Maybe I won’t wear a Minnie Mouse dress to the grocery store, but I will carry on with my purpose…after all, God has given it to me.

“Find the thing you want to do most intensely, make sure that’s it, and do it with all your might. If you live, well and good. If you die, well and good. Your purpose is done”― H.G. Wells



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