There has never been a time when I felt more sinful or weak than when I was studying theology. Education can tend to do that. It makes us much more aware of how prone we are to make mistakes and how little we actually know. The world of academia brings information into our grasp in a special way — it teaches us to see through different lenses, to grow in our understanding of ourselves, those around us, and God. And while my goal was to become smarter, the years of sitting in lectures and burying my nose in textbooks brought about more questions than answers, reminding me daily that I’m limited.
Yet there’s huge value, especially as Christians, in pursuing academic endeavors for exactly that reason. If you come out of your years of studies keenly aware of your lack of knowledge, like you’ve just scratched the surface of what you don’t know, I hope you embrace it. Owning your limitations helps you step into greater wholeness, and there’s nothing quite like attending school to catalyze that process.
As you think about your future within the classroom, here are some useful tips that have helped me take advantage of this scholarly sanctification.
Take Initiative For Your Own Growth
You can have the best professors on the planet and have access to the greatest curriculum, but ultimately you’re responsible for what you learn. If you truly want to see lasting transformation in your life, if you want to become who God made you to be, you must be proactive. You can fully engage in your classes or you can choose to just get by. You can admit your faults and repent when you’re wrong or you can find a scapegoat to blame instead. You can mentally check out when the lessons are hard or you can face them head on by wrestling with the content and applying it to your life. The choice is yours. I’ve often wished learning could happen through osmosis, but it doesn’t. Growth takes place when you commit to putting in the work.
Say No So You Can Say Yes
One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is to admit that I cannot possibly do everything I want to do, or even everything I feel I should do. School offers a vast array of opportunities in an endless parade down your dorm’s hallway. If you’re like me, it’s easy to get swept up in the events, projects, committees, and teams. But don’t drown yourself in to-do lists. Asking for God’s direction, figure out your goals and values and run hard after your priorities. Create margin and intentionally take time to rest by saying no to good things in order to say yes to the best ones. Staying focused on the life-giving things you care most about makes all the difference.
Learn to Rely on Grace
God’s grace (by definition, a free gift you don’t have to earn) seems like the opposite of how the school system works. As a student, you don’t get straight As unless you’re good and right. In life, as a sinful human, it’s impossible to be good and right all the time. When you’re reminded of that, put yourself in a position of grace. It may be counter cultural in today’s society, but make space for silence in order to hear from the Giver of Grace. Through practicing solitude and staying connected to the Vine, you’ll be able to discern what it is that matters most and bear good fruit because of it.
See Strength in Weakness
When you’re exhausted from staying up too late in the library or waking up at an ungodly hour for a last-minute cram session, it’s easy to forget your motives and question why anyone in their right mind would want to go through formal education. Believe me, I’ve been there. Yet I hope even in that moment you keep your eyes open. It is there that you have the chance to own your limitations and step closer to the One whose grace is sufficient and whose strength is made perfect in weakness. In all my days of schooling there was no more significant, life-changing lesson than that.
Photo by Roman Kraft