Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Kosin in cloud.

Discouraged is not something I get very often. I’m a nose to the grindstone kind of gal. Moreover (and embarrassingly), my modus operandi over the years has been excel or quit. Piano, track, poetry, Japanese—all too hard. I quit and avoided the discouragement my inabilities would bring. I like to do things well and if I can’t, well, there’s probably someone else who can.
But I can’t quit being a friend, for instance, nor can I quit my job. I simply have to excel at both, or, at the very least, do passably.
Until this last week, I definitely thought I was in the passable category for teaching. My kids tolerate me, I’ve had no major discipline problems, and most of my students can sometimes say “Excuse me” and “I’m from Korea.” That is, when they’re not taking picture of themselves on their cell phones. Passable.
But not recently. Really. I botched every English major conversation class I taught (and there were 6 for a total of 8 hours) and so much so that my students had to correct me on what was and was not the passive voice and mention my ineptitude specifically in our class prayer.[1] I’ve shown up late to classes. I’ve forgotten my cd player, lost papers, forgotten to assign homework, and told one class that corporal punishment and capital punishment are the same thing.This alone probably gives Calvin College the right—nay, the duty!—to revoke my diploma.
So I guess it’s time to accept what psychologist Karen Horney describes as the “ordinariness of one’s real self.” It’s time to be mature and live out the maxim that it’s important to fail. I’ve failed many things lately, including not being discouraged. Today I looked up from the grindstone I’ve been so happily working, to find that I am very much in need.In need of improvement, encouragement, and maybe three or four choco pies a night.
Ordinarily I avoid need like the plague. I hate being weak. It is, among other things, annoying. But it is also where God is. I cannot speak highly enough of Redeeming Eve, a book I’m reading by Heather P. Webb, which speaks to this. Ordinarily I loathe books like Webb’s, assuming them to be touchy-feely traps of angst. Her words are full of quiet wisdom and approachable grace. She writes, “We live in a dangerous world where to want is lunacy and to wait is cowardly. . .[but] To be alive is to need, to grieve, to feel, to laugh, to love.”
It’s more than okay to suck at things. And to suck in such a way that you continue to suck over and over and over. How comforting! Being needy is awful; I will always hate it. But I think Webb’s right: that’s what we are and it is right to be so.
MacrinaWiederkehr said it well: “God, you cannot hide from me. You cannot scare me with your face of absence. I scare myself with this hunger for your presence. . . . I feel so powerless, so little and so poor, so vulnerable, so terribly wide open, so seen. It hurts to be so hungry, so dependent on your bits of grace.”

[1] I maintain that I am so very not passive that the essence of the passive voice utterly eludes me. (If I could footnote this footnote, I would mention that “eludes me” always makes me want to write “alludes me,” which is just silly.)


  1. I love this. I'm always keeping you in my prayers honey. Thanks for the book suggestion, I was in need of some reading material.

  2. It's nice to know I'm not alone. Teaching isn't easy or at least it's more difficult than I thought it'd be. Especially in Korea, teaching isn't just... teaching.
    Anyways. Sorry to intrude on your blog! I find it interesting to read from time to time.

    This was eight days ago but I hope you're doing better.

    1. Thanks. Korea is nuts. When people ask what my job is, I sometimes want to say, "Stand up comedy. Sort of like the Whose Line sound effects bit."