Friday, August 23, 2013

The plans I have for you . . .

Coming to terms with life's stress. 

So . . .  this week has been kind of yucky.

The first week of classes is always an intense week for professors. Adjusting to new schedules and new classes is intense. Meeting 125 fresh young faces all of whom have expectations that I will adjust my life to meet their needs (which I largely will) is nerve wracking. I know I need to exude positive energy right now to get a positive semester with them. Smiling laughing, etc wears me out. Finding out new committee assignments, writing up semester objectives for research, scholarly involvement, community outreach, etc. is all hard. I love the first week of classes, but it always wears me out.

This semester I’ve been plagued with technology problems. Apparently, all of my quizzes for my courses were suddenly locked until June of next year. Several of the webpages I created for the class got marked as available for teachers only (not what I wanted). And a computer glitch put three extra seats in two of my already over full classes. That’s sucked.

We also have these puppies at our house that are too little to go to their permanent homes, but too big to be in the house all the time, but too little to be outside during New Mexico’s monsoon season. That’s a frustration.

My sister-in-law who has been staying with us for the summer left this week. I’ll be glad to have our house back, but we’ll miss her. Besides the emotions related to her leaving, there’s logistical stresses in getting her to El Paso to get on the plane, etc.

My wife’s pregnancy is STILL exciting, but we are reaching the stage where there are several really gross tests she has to go through. And we have to add the doctor’s appointments and stuff to an already crazy schedule.

Finally, we’ve been frustrated with the community in which we live. We’d had really high hopes that a 0.25% sales tax on non-essential items would pass. It would do all kinds of things that would have made this town more livable. There would have been alternatives to the drugs, sex and violence culture that seems to be all people here know. The community soundly rejected it and my wife and I are experiencing a really strong anger about this. Well, I’m not anymore. I went through denial, then anger, now I’m bargaining with my University and various town leaders. I’m not quite to “accepting” yet.

So . . . today had ups and downs.

My wife and her sister went to El Paso last night to get the sister on the plane to Ohio, so I had the house to myself this morning. That was nice, I guess. At our university we are supposed to wear purple and gold on Fridays when we teach. I don’t always, but that’s because I forget, not because I’m rebelling. I usually wear my purple shirt with the school logo. For the first couple weeks of the semester, I also wear a suit jacket or sport coat too, so I can look like a professor. It just so happens that I have a gold jacket that I can wear with my purple shirt. I put it on for the first time since last semester and there was a $10 in the pocket. That made me happy.

I got to work, taught my class without incident and stepped outside. That’s when I noticed that the tire on my ’87 Blazer was flat. I hate working on cars. I hate changing tires. It happens on all cars from time to time but, it is still so frustrating. It’s 2013, is the best and cheapest technology we can find really a rubber balloon filled with air?!? There must be better options.

Anyway, I often think, whether it’s true or not, of a flat tire as a spiritual attack. I know, that’s probably crazy, but that’s what I always think. I am aware that balloons pop without the Devil popping them. Often, perceiving myself as the victim of a spiritual attack upsets me. Why would God let this happen to me? Not this time, however, this time it just put everything in perspective. This time, I just laughed.  All the stuff, all week, and now this! This is like, the wimpiest stress-out of the week. If this is a spiritual attack, it's a dumb one. Changing tires stinks, but it’s a pretty solvable problem. So, I got down to change the tire.

I got the Blazer jacked up, got the tire off, got the spare out. The spare was flat. Furthermore, as I jacked up the car before, I noticed that it must have gone flat before I taught, because the rim on the original was bent.  I called my wife and told her I was going to need help when she got home getting the spare to a tire shop and that we’re either going to have to buy a new rim or maybe junk the Blazer. We paid less than we would get for scrap for the Blazer when we got it, so even minor repairs always instigate the latter impulse.  Either way, she was, after being tired from trip to El Paso, and probably emotionally spent from saying goodbye to her sister, going to have to haul me around working on tires when she got home.

A kid saw me dealing with my tire and asked if I needed help. I told him the spare was also flat, so probably there wasn’t much I could do until I could get the spare fixed. He offered to drive me up to a tire shop to fix the spare. I figured “why not.” As we drove out the shop he wanted to go to, he told me about his life. He told me that he had gone to “Job Corp” after high-school and had certificates in culinary arts and auto-repair but that he hadn’t been able to find a job since then. He talked about how he was thinking about going to college next semester, and that he’d just dropped a friend off there. He talked about how he had been excommunicated from the Mormon (he said “LDS”) church because he was supposed to go to some conference, but went to a heavy metal concert instead. He talked about “karma” and how he would help me with this because he thought maybe someone would help him with something some time. He drove me to a tire shop HE knew, that was almost 10 minutes out of town. I’d never been there and probably wouldn’t have thought about it.

The spare had a leaky valve stem. The repair cost $5. I had the $10 in my pocket from this morning, and I knew immediately what the other $5 was for. I needed to give it to the kid who helped me. When we got back in the car I offered him the $5. He asked if I was sure, and I explained that I had found $10 that morning, the repair had cost $5. So, if I gave him the $5, I had no less money than I’d thought I’d had when I went to bed last night.  The kid was visibly moved to tears. He said he was out of food stamps and hadn’t eaten in a day or so. The $5 would really help.

On the way home, he talked about “karma” again and asked if I believed in it. I said that I’d looked into it, and decided that I didn’t believe in karma exactly, but that I believed in God and that God sees the good and bad we do.  Without even trying the conversation on the way home allowed me to help him understand that even if the Mormon church rejected him, God hadn’t rejected him. I was able to show him that God loved him and that if his parents' church wouldn’t take him, there were lots of churches that would. I didn’t quite get to “lead him in the sinners prayer” and the conversation didn’t end with him pointing to one of the monsoon mud puddles and saying “here is water, why should I not be baptized?” like the eunuch in the book of Acts.

Still, by the end, I was pretty sure it wasn’t the Devil who popped my tire, which makes me wonder about the other stresses this week and who might be orchestrating them to what ends.  


  1. I think that was the best blog I ever read.
    And I love you...I love you...I love you too.

  2. Wow Ben... that was wonderful. I believe that all things happen for a reason and well... there you are. It really is a great way to think about it.