There. I said it.
You get caught up into this net of This Is The Most Important Thing Ever!! Getting the reading done (or close!) (or thinking about reading at some point when you have the time), preparing a precept discussion, papers papers papers! Each paper is going to get to the bottom of this giant mystery, you will solve the problem! You will enlighten everyone! Exams! Oh! The exams! The pressure, the pressure, the pressure. What will be asked? How will it be asked? What will I say? How will I remember this and that and that and this and OH! how can I do this??!! And what if I don’t get an A? And will I be able to get into the Ph.D. program where I want if I don’t get an A? Will my professor see behind the curtain and realize I’m just a big bag of hot air? a joke? that I have no business whatsoever of being at an institution such as this? of sitting and learning in these rooms where some of the world’s biggest and bestest theologians of all time have sat? Will they know? are they laughing as they read my paper? “She thinks she can get a Ph.D. with this kind of work?! Is she kidding? How did she get in here?!”
and on and on and on it goes. While you neglect your family, neglect your home, neglect your health, drink more coffee than anyone ever should drink ever unless, of course, they’re trying to convert their blood into coffee.
Meanwhile . . . there’s this woman in Lebanon, a refugee from Syria, there with her five children aged 4 to 14, in a tiny room/home/shack. With next to no food. Sleeping fully clothed. (for warmth? for lack of any other clothes?) Her husband back in Syria (doing what? safe? not?). And her children are all clean and neat and tidy, with combed hair and clean (old, worn) clothes. And she spends five hours a day teaching and educating them, so they don’t fall behind, so they can move forward and succeed. And staying positive for them. That they won’t feel the full impact of what’s going on in their lives.
And you hear this. And you weep. Because your children haven’t had a haircut in four months, they bathe once or twice a week, their hair is combed but never neat. You’re freaking out on them from the stress on such a regular basis that your five-year-old is a basket case, fearful of the next blow-up. You’re sending them away from you for a weekend so you can devote your time to your work. To what? To learning about the church from a hundred years ago. To writing about the church of 500 years ago. To learning about some people with some pretty freaking crazy ideas about god and how this god works and what this god does and what they need to do to get and keep in touch with him. Because this. this. is what consumes you these days. This is what is piled all over your kitchen counter right around the dirty dishes piled above the clean dishwasher because you don’t want to take the time away from all these “important” papers and tests so that you can create a neat and tidy and comfortable home for your family.
What the hell are you doing? And why?
Because you hope. And you pray. That somehow. Some way. Through the insanity of all this time and energy focused on this pile of papers, you will indeed get to the heart of some problems. That you will indeed have some insight. Gain some wisdom. That you can share with the Church. That you can shape her so that she can witness to the Light. The Light that shines in the darkness. So that she may go and teach and baptize and bring Light and Life and Hope into a broken, broken world. That she can point to Truth. And Mercy. And Justice. And the source of true Peace. You hope and pray that because of your study of the church’s history where there is nothing new under the sun, the Church will fulfill her mission of witnessing to the Coming Kingdom of God that has already broken into this fallen world and is yet to come in fullness. Where peace reigns, where there is be no more war, no suffering, no pain, no tears, no brokenness. Witnessing to the One who will bring it in fullness. That in the midst of war and hunger and fear and suffering, people will know we are not without hope. That there is a Savior who came and who is to come. And that his Way is the way to and of and for Life.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come.