|Painting: "Pair of Shoes" by Van Gogh|
A few weeks ago, somewhere in between brushing our teeth and tying the Bean's shoes, Bookguy and I were discussing high school, college, and the satirical essay in the Wall Street Journal by Suzy Lee Weiss: "To All The Colleges That Rejected Me."
Suzy Lee Weiss is a Senior in high school with a 4.5 GPA and a 2120 on her SATs, but she wasn't accepted to Princeton, Yale, Vandy, or Penn. So what did she do? She vented via op-ed -- in the WSJ of all places! Then she appeared on the Today Show!
She writes: "Colleges tell you, 'Just be yourself.' That is great advice, as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores and two moms. Then by all means, be yourself! If you work at a local pizza shop and are the slowest person on the cross-country team, consider taking your business elsewhere."
Some readers of the article gave Suzy flack, calling her whiny and spoiled. (The piece was written as satire, and if you watch the video above, you'll see she has a good sense of humor about herself. I would hardly call her whiny.)
When asked about the response she's received to her article, Suzy explains: "Everyone my age, whether they wanted to get into Penn State their whole lives or Harvard is agreeing with me that it's just a rat race nowadays and it's such a business model as opposed to who's most qualified should get in. It's a crapshoot, and I understand that."
There are a lot of things I'd love to discuss about this:
What indicates whether someone is 'qualified' for a specific college? SAT? GPA? IQ?
Should having 'two-moms' be a determining factor for diversity?
Was all her hard-work and effort to get into an Ivy League in vein?
But the biggest thing the article stirred up in me was concern for my own children and the inevitable rat race coming 'round the bend.
Honestly, I wonder how the rat race mentality is affecting the whole of us, not just our children. The 'try-harder' mentality pushes, forces, and urges us to do more, so we can be more, so we can buy more and achieve more, enjoy more, because we deserve more.
We burn holes in our shoes.
Saturday morning we bumped into a friend from little league and learned his 12-year-old son, all-star baseball player, had decided not to try out for baseball his final season of little league. He didn't want the two-hour practices three days a week, and the three-hour games twice a week, on top of two hours of homework a night.
Who can blame him?
I feel the rat race. Do you?
I have three children in three different sports with three different social spheres. I have a husband that works 50 hours a week. I myself work 15-20 hours a week. We volunteer at church and in our city, and I lead a bible study, and participate in a beautiful prayer group, and attend fundraisers and volunteer in the classrooms, and Bookguy helps coach baseball. I don't intend to sound like Suzy Lee Weiss, but my point is, it's not just our children being worked to the bone. It's all of us.
I find great tension in the thought that I am supposed to 'press on toward the prize' and simultaneously find rest in the vine. How do I find rest when I'm pressing in?
Is it possible that pressing in might actually mean backing off? How much restraint does it require of us, how much faith and surrender does it cost for us to slow down, to actually listen, to say no to our to-do list, to schedule time for creativity, friendship, and beauty?
Do we have a choice how fast we run, and whether or not we participate at all? I believe we do.
A while back I read a beautiful, true post over at A Deeper Church by Amber C. Haines called You Are as Valuable as the Orphan. She's writes: "I wouldn't know a Sabbath if you threw me in bed with one, and I am indeed physically exhausted, but it's more than that. It's been long enough now that I know it's not just us and our friends. It's our own culture, church, and otherwise, caught up in a whirlwind of work-based righteousness, grappling to find meaning and aching to be a radical."
It's not just Amber or Amber's friends. Or Suzy and Suzy's classmates. It's the whole lot of us.
Rats. Running. Crazy People.
Maybe we need to work harder at trying less.
Give ourselves permission to say no.
Run a different kind of race than the rest of the world.
It will come at a cost, I know. But the alternative is continuing to burn holes in our shoes -- and that isn't very fun, or very effective, either.
I like to think that maybe a different pace, a different sort of life perspective, might one day be the thing that sets the Church apart. Maybe our at ease, our confidence in God's timing and provision, our prioritizing of people over achievement and worldly success, our 'moving at the beat of His drum' will be the thing that becomes attractive to the stressed out, over worked, lonely, empty, achievement driven culture around us. Maybe our neighbors will look at our steady, internal peace, and see something different -- Someone different.
"Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life
that don't really matter." Francis Chan