Apr 10, 2009

College of Medicine

I have wanted to write this post for a long time, but I was afraid to.  Part of it was because I knew it was going to be very long.  Part of it was because I don't come off too well for the first good bit of the story.  But I guess I need to just go ahead and write it.  So apologies if I damage your highly inflated view of me - or if the post is insanely long.  

When I was growing up, I had views of how a family should be.  Some of this was from my own family experiences.  Some of it was from church and the very conservative school I went to through my Elementary years.  Basically, the husband worked; the wife stayed home.  He brought in the money; she did all the housework.  He was in charge; she was in submission.  He was the final say and ultimate disciplinarian; she did, well, just about everything else.  Those women who "insisted" on working did not accept authority - either earthly or heavenly.  [Dude, I warned you that I don't come off well.]  So in my little brain, I just assumed that my wife was going to always be home with the kids.  Sure, she needed to finish college "just in case."  And when I entered the ministry, my wife was going to be my support and help the ministry succeed.  

Well, then along came Heather.  We were dating, and one day started to discuss the future.  I'm really not sure how everything played out.  I just know that my dear Heather dropped the bomb that she wanted to go to Medical School.  I just sat in the car stunned.  What?!?  And thus began one of our first arguments.  Huge argument.  I'm sitting thinking that my point of view is completely accurate.  I even was generous enough to offer the whole "once the kids are in school" caveat.  But she was really convinced that she was going to go to Med School.  Well, I loved Heather and wanted to marry her.  So I just figured that she would come around.  (And she was just praying I would come around.)  

Being the awesome person she is, Heather knew how much the concept of Med School bothered me.  She tried everything.  She planned to do Nursing School, accounting, medical technician, teacher.  She looked at anything else she could.  The problem was, none of them fit.  I noticed this, but i just couldn't come to grips with her going to Medical School.  I had realized that she needed to do something.  She is happier when she has something to do - school, job, something.  She's a great mom - but a better mom when there is something else demanding time.  [NOTE: I'm not saying that women staying home is wrong.  I think for many families, that is the best option.  This is our experience - nothing more to be read into this story.]

Well, about four or five years into our marriage, our church was going through 40 Days of Purpose.  I had been really struggling with what I was supposed to do with my life.  I had a hard time believing that I was supposed to design bulletin shells all the time.  I was praying a lot about what to do.  During the study, God really crystallized some things in my mind.  God gives us talents, gifts, and passions.  When we are utilizing all three of those, we are able to do so much for God.  We're good at what we do, God is blessing it, we are enjoying it.  And for me, that was teaching and writing.  I was thrilled to figure this out.  I needed to find out a place to make this work.  FINALLY - DIRECTION!!!  I met with my supervisor and our pastor.  They both talked with me and prayed that I would find something that gave me an opportunity to write and teach.  It actually wasn't too much later that Defender Ministries began.  I have been able to teach thousands of people, have written tons of curriculum, and really found my purpose.  

Meanwhile, back at home, my wife was still struggling.  And one day, leaving church, God punched me in the eye.  I had just taught my college guys Sunday School class and was heading home.  Heather had stayed home (again) with sick kids.  I was feeling awesome about myself, and actually was thanking God for giving me a chance to do what He made me to do.  "Feeling pretty good, huh?  That's great.  So why is that YOU can feel that way, that YOU can do what I made you to do - and your wife cannot?"  You know that moment when you were a kid and you had done something wrong and the teacher walked up?  That moment when you wished you could teleport somewhere else?  Well, you know that whole verse about "where can you go and hide from God?"  Yeah....

The whole way home I just rotated that question in my mind.  I couldn't justify it.  Heather was obviously talented with science.  She had the gifts of compassion and discernment.  And she was passionate about people and medicine.  How could I continue to fight and tell her she had to ignore those things?  When I got home I apologized and told her that I was going to do everything I could to make sure she was able to pursue Med School.  Was I terrified?  Uh, yeah.  (Am I still?  Sometimes.)  But I gave her my word.  And I don't lie to my wife.

She finished school - with a degree Molecular and Microbiology.  She graduated with a 3.7 GPA.  Her GPA after having kids was 3.95.  Darth Gabus came along after Med School, which means she took the MCAT with a seven month old.  She got a 30.  (For those of you, like me, who know nothing about MCATs -- that's really good).  And then we applied all over the place and waited.  I kept on telling her that if God wanted her to go, she would go.  Sure, there were days I hoped that someone (or Someone) changed their mind.  But I don't lie to my wife.

And we waited.

And we waited.

We wanted to get into UCF.  One, it was home.  Two, we had so much here.  Three, the school I was teaching at and Josiah was attending was awesome.  Four, it was free.  But 4300 people applied for 40 spots.  So we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.

It got to be discouraging, as months rolled on with nothing.  Sure, we sent off tons of secondary applications.  But no contact.  We at one point were concerned about having to choose between schools.  I started praying that we would just get one school - the place we should go.  "God, we're dumb.  We'll mess this up.  Just tell us where to go."  I had prayed this way before and it had worked out (right before Heather and I started dating, actually).  So I tried it again.  And waited.

And waited.

Finally, in February Heather got contacted by FSU.  They wanted to interview her.  We drove the unbelievably mind-numbing drive up and she had her interview.  "At this late date, if things go well, you'll probably be wait listed.  Don't expect to get accepted right away."  The interview went well, but that ominous statement was issued as well.  And they dropped the bomb that they started May 26 - not August like we were planning.

We still were hoping to hear from UCF - or UF or USF.  But Heather had fallen in love with FSU.  It was everything she wanted.  I was thrilled for her - except - it was in Tallahassee.  I don't have anything against Tallahassee.  One of my best friends, Greg Ramer, lives there.  I had fond memories of the city.  But what about my school?  What about our friends?  What about Defender?  What about me?  

Again, God hit me with a question.  "Why does it always have to be about you?"  Dang.  FSU called a couple days later.  They flat out accepted her.  No wait list.  Just a "Please come here.  We want you here."  Then UCF emailed to say, sorry but no.  UF and USF followed suit.  God had indeed answered my prayer.  There was one place - FSU.  It meant changing everything in our family.  I would stay home and homeschool the kids.  She would go to school for four years, residency for four years, and then be a full doctor.  I was so proud of her.  But....

All that stuff from the first part of this post came rumbling back.  This wasn't normal.  This wasn't the way things were supposed to be.  I felt selfish thoughts continue to boil up.  My ego didn't like being second banana.  I didn't like the thought of sitting around for years, while she was able to pursue what she wanted.  I wanted assurances about time constraints and chances to have personal time.  I had never given her those things.  But I felt it was my right.

I didn't like those things surfacing.  I felt like junk for a couple weeks.  There was a war going on inside.  The man I wanted to be - the one who would allow God to do something surprising and who would support his wife - was battling the man I used to be - the one whose view of the world began and ended with himself.  When we headed up to FSU for Open House, I still was fighting and hoping something would resolve.

Having hours to kill on a drive allows for conversation.  So I just spilled out what I was battling with.  I told Heather all of it - even the parts that made me look bad.  I don't lie to my wife.  She responded by saying she completely understood that battle.  The biggest concern she had about this whole move was that I would never feel taken for granted.  We both prayed that the weekend would be helpful to iron out some issues. 

Once we got to the school, I started to understand.  I listened to the way the school is set up.  It is like it was created for Heather.  The way she views medicine, views people - is what the school values.  They chose her BECAUSE of who she was - not in spite of it.  They picked her because she was a mom with a strong faith.  They saw her as the exact type of student they wanted.  Every step of the weekend just showed how much God was in all of this.  We found a place to live that was perfect for us.  Which was the perfect companion to the school that was perfect for Heather.

Am I still nervous?  Oh, yeah.  I know my weaknesses and fear for my children's sanity at times.  I wonder how all of this will work - the finances, the schooling, the homeschooling.  But I know for sure this is where we are supposed to go.  And I have stopped trying to generate "something for me" up there.  This isn't about me.  My role is to minister to my wife and kids for this season.  And I am getting excited.  I'm not saying that every family has to do this.  I just know that OUR family is supposed to do this.

So in less than two months, we are moving to Tallahassee.  Heather is going on the adventure of her life.  She is going to study and thrive.  She is going to be a leader.  She is going to touch so many lives.  And she still is going to be a great mom, and a great wife, and a godly woman - and a great doctor.  In a few years, we probably will move again for residency.  I have no idea what this means for me.  God hasn't shown me that yet.  All I know is that right now, I am going to do everything I can to pour my life into my kids and to support my wife.  I promised that to them.  I promised that to Heather almost five years ago.  And I don't lie to my wife.