In seminary, most of my homework was due at 11:59pm on a given day. Many people turned their homework in at 11:58. And here I am, sneaking under the wire again, posting my Wednesday blog right before it turns to Thursday. But I was pleasantly surprised to find in grad school, I was no longer that student that waited until the last minute. I mean, I definitely did sometimes, but for the most part, I was different.
I never graduated from college. There was a lot of shame and fear attached to that fact. So I was really nervous when I started at DTS. Our seminary is hard for really gifted students, so I had no idea what it would be like for me. So I came in prepared and determined. I read everything before we had class. I usually finished my homework before we learned it in class. I know this may sound excessive, but it was really beneficial for me. It meant that when we went over things in class, I understood the idea and was listening for the details, or for the big picture, or for the application. I knew which areas I had struggled on in the homework and needed to pay attention to in class. I knew what questions to ask. Not the questions that make the professor think how smart you are, but the questions about the parts that I really didn’t understand. So by the time we were done with class, I really understood the topic. And often then I could go over my homework again. This was hugely helpful in language classes.
Of course, then there were the papers, the big writing assignments everyone is familiar with. Yeah, I was terrible at those. I would have a ten-page paper, and after one and a half pages, I had said everything I wanted to say. I had spent my life taking huge theological ideas and getting them down to four minutes, really down to four to eight lines with some exposition in the verses. But grad school papers are taking a seed and growing a huge tree from it. I was a miner digging through the coal for a diamond who was put in charge of a garden. The skill sets just didn’t mix. Fortunately, a doctoral student heard me complaining one day (I’m not proud of that; it’s just true). And he was a huge help. He said my papers were strong, had good solid points, and were to the point. Now I needed to write a one and a half page paper on each of my points. Tada! 10 page paper!
So I settled into the academic life. I loved it. One, I loved learning more about the Bible. I could extend this blog series for a year, just telling you stories from seminary. And two, I liked the concrete predictability of it. If you do this, learn this, complete this, you complete the course and get a good grade. The thing is that life isn’t like that. Marriage doesn’t have a syllabus. Parenting doesn’t have an end of the semester. Or a spring break. So, I did the work. I followed directions. And I trusted that God was sowing things into me that would help my wife, my kids, and others. I don’t know how well I did on that end. I guess that grade is still an incomplete. And incomplete means there’s still hope.
Tune in next week for the reunion of the academic and the artist. Thanks.