My House of Cards

Here’s a post I started months ago and came back to numerous times but never actually wrote; just typed the title and left it.  I figure I’m more objective in retrospect anyway.  I’ve got two classes left before completing becoming a Master of Divinity.  Although I think Doctor of Philosophy sounds totally lofty, I have to say that Master of Divinity actually sounds like a more impressive claim.  I mean, just listen to it.  Hello, I’m Greg, and I have mastered divinity.  Well, anyway, it’s been a crazy three years.  The M.Div. is an 84 hour program, which typically takes 4 years or more at 9 hours a semester.  I’ve gone as quickly as I could, which meant some 12 hour semesters and 6 hours each summer.  That’s somewhat suicidal in itself, but manageable if you’re studious and do nothing else.  I was foolish enough, however, to work part time in ministry with the Hispanic church here in Memphis.  So, I’ve had many moments of near-despair.  There are only so many hours in the day, and even when you don’t sleep for any of those, sometimes there just isn’t enough time if you’ve overcommitted.  Now, I won’t go into all the motivations for engaging in such insanity–as it was my choice–but let’s just say that I judged it to be the best course available.  There has been a great deal of learning, as well there ought to be for the price!  But there has been just as many life-lessons as academic ones.  In particular, I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with the best course being a painful, less-than-ideal one.  In case there are any total numbskulls stumbling across this blog, let me advise that starting marriage with a 12 hour semester and a new ministry job is bad business.

To be very transparent–and what’s the point of blogging otherwise, right?–I have second-guessed my decisions many times.  It seems that whenever something is hard, and you intend to do it for Kingdom reasons, there is inevitably doubt about whether motivations are pure (enough), whether it’s hard because God’s in disagreement, whether God’s in agreement and just wants you to learn a lesson about not being dependent, etc.  The reason I’m not supplying my motivations is that I don’t intend you, the reader, to evaluate our family decisions.  Like I said, I’ve done second-guessing aplenty, and if there was a time for seeking advice, it’s long past.  If you have a gem of wisdom to impart, try to catch me on the front end of the next kamikaze dive.  In any event, I’ve definitely learned that it is always more complicated than the simple answer I would prefer.

Getting to my main point, I can also affirm that, whatever else God was doing through this experience, he was teaching me humility.  I hear people joke about praying for patience and then finding themselves in frustrating experiences only to conclude that God was giving them practice.  This has been something like that, I think, because I have prayed much and for many years for humility.  Arrogance and pride are cancers to leadership, and I have long since come to recognize myself as a high-risk case on those counts.  God has graciously given me many gifts, yet I imagine he often rolls his eyes at my self-satisfied and condescending attitude.  It’s one of those sad-funny ironies.  So, you can imagine it’s bad medicine for me to meet whatever standard I have set for myself without something to check my pride.  You can imagine it’s much the worse if the odds are against me and I succeed anyway.  I am an academician.  My progress in the academy is the fruit of both God-given ability and a labor of love.  So I tend to excel even when taking more than a full load.  It’s no help when classmates shake their heads in disbelief upon learning that I’ve been taking 12 hours and still showing up to class prepared.  So God gave me a few more cards to add to my house.  And it came crashing down.  My GPA suffered at times as I struggled to keep all my plates spinning.  Deadlines came and went as my perfectionist self dragged into professors’ offices to ask for grace.  Many things I intended to do well were substandard, and other things simply never got done.  Constantly plagued by the intention to pursue a terminal degree in the future, the desire for the respect of my profs., and the desire to learn as much as possible, I always strove for excellence.  The current dean of the grad. school, however, is quite open about the fact that the M.Div. program was, for him, about learning that sometimes it is impossible to succeed.  Whereas I thought that was nonsense when I started the program, I am in agreement now.  Is that humility?

My House of Cards

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