A long, long time ago, or so it seems, I was once deemed to be a promising academic. In one year, I had all 5 submitted papers published (the accepted rate is 1 out of 4). I was one of the younger lecturers in a distinguished sandstone university. I had just finished my PhD, and my thesis was deemed to be near perfect (no corrections!). (Just quietly, in case it isn't obvious, I also had a massive ego to match my impressive CV).
But allow me to wax lyrical about my PhD for just a minute. Truly, it is a magnificent piece of work. I read it now and then just to remind myself that I can write. That I once did write, and when I did, I did it beautifully.
I love my PhD thesis. It's my magnum opus.
Mainly though, I loved the freedom to research; to sit in an archive all day and leave with one juicy find. I loved being a keeper of knowledge, and a creator of knowledge.
When we made the decision to relocate to Tasmania, we didn't realise that the move would effectively spell the end of my academic career. It's a tough grind being an academic in the humanities these days, and one needs a big city, lots of connections and a long slog working in temporary roles to get even a contract position. And so, after a lot of soul searching and Spirit-leading, I accepted that.
My days are now filled with wearing gumboots chasing after children who enjoy ignoring my warnings that they not go into the bull's paddock. The bull who has been recently separated from his girlfriends. An angry bull, in other words. My life now revolves around attempting to nurture my children, to help foster a love of learning in these two little beings entrusted to my care, to feeding and cleaning and patting and, occasionally, yelling. And it's mostly fun. It's a pretty special moment to tramp through a paddock (sans bull) at dusk, with the golden light fading through the gumtrees, while the kids romp down hill and dale. It's lovely. But it also means that, most of my time, I am out on a secluded property, with very little phone or internet reception, with two small people who demand most of my time and energy.
I've written before about contentment, and finding myself with a change of heart towards at-home parenting. I've celebrated, on this blog, about God's blessing in providing the opportunity to home school my beautiful little daughter.
I thought ... Look Ma, I've done it! I've reached the pinnacle!
And then came the temptation.
An email, out of the blue. An invitation strongly urging me to consider applying for a plum role as an historian, back in my beloved hometown. Not just any old historian, mind you. One responsible for curating exhibitions, for coordinating research projects; essentially, to oversee the way that history is managed and told in that fair state.
In an instant I was there. I am well acquainted with the building where the role would be based. It seems I spent half my life there, back in those halcyon days of wandering across to Northbridge in the fading Perth summer light. I could see myself charging up the stairs, looking fabulous (of course), taking charge. Making decisions. Finding out cool stuff. Being A Very Important Woman.
I always know I'm far from God when my dreams start to edge out His plans for me. When I instinctively turn off worship music on the car stereo to replace it with something a little less ... demanding. When the Bible gets pushed to the edge of the bedside table so that I can read something that requires less of me, spiritually. When I start to seek my own vision for my life instead of God's.
I know I'm far from God when, instantly, I forget all the lessons He's been teaching me - about patience, about timing, about contentment - and begin to dream my own big dreams.
Is it wrong to want to use what are clearly God-given talents? I don't think so. Is it difficult to really know when one's dreams and aspirations are for the fulfilment of self, or for the glory of God? Sometimes. Oftentimes. At this point, not really.
I am a fine writer. I know that. I've proven it, amply. The question is, do I trust that God will use those talents, in time, and for His glory? That, my friends, is my next journey.