Why School Matters

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A few months ago, Pete Wilson posted an excellent question on his blog. He asked, "Are you honestly able to make a connect between what you do for a living and God’s Kingdom?" I started typing up a response but never posted it because I couldn't quite put into words what I wanted to say and, well, because I was ashamed of having such a bad attitude about school. Nevertheless, I saved a copy of it, and I want to share it now because I've realized a thing or two since then.

Such a good question and convicting post. I've been thinking about this nonstop. I don't have a job yet, but as a university student, I'd honestly have to answer "no." I find it really hard to make a connection between the Kingdom and my role as a student (that is, as someone who listens to lectures, does homework, studies for exams...) unless I'm in a religion/philosophy class or something of that kind. It's relevant to my future career, but not at this point directly relevant to the kingdom.

It's different when it comes to my role as a friend. It's easy to connect my social time on campus with the kingdom (I attend a Christian club and Bible studies, help out with outreach efforts, have lots of great conversation with friends, etc.), but that's only one side of the coin. I still can't really find the relevance of the other side—the strictly academic part that involves writing essays and reading textbooks. Maybe I shouldn't be making this distinction between my social and academic time, but it's frustrating.

Yup, that's precisely the attitude with which I trudged through my first two years of university. And just knowing that it was a bad attitude didn't help—changing it took prayer. If I could, I'd say a couple of things to my slightly-younger self that would have saved me some stress and depression last semester.

First off, if we can eat pizza and drink tea for the glory of God, then there's got to be a way to read textbooks and write exams for his glory too. Maybe that means smiling at the prof as I pass by or not stressing out when I don't know an answer. Maybe that means getting excited about the opportunity to discover dozens of different perspectives on an issue (even if doing so entails reading a couple hundred pages). Maybe that just means being diligent and paying attention to what I'm doing. It's hard to know in advance what that looks like, but that's what makes this so exciting: I can ask God at any moment to show me exactly what about my attitude or behaviour I can change to glorify him better as I highlight that book or sharpen my pencil for that exam. By looking for God's purpose in things that seem totally unrelated to him, I'll discover just how vast and, for lack of a more powerful word, pertinent he is.

Second, my experience as a student enriches my social interactions. I understand exactly what others going through... I know the stress, the pressure, the isolation (yup, even in a university of 30,000—I didn't meet anyone from my program until 2nd year). I think it's a bit like missionary work... I'm sure that the most effective missionaries are those who spend their nights in the slums instead of sleeping in a luxury hotel (and for the record, I don't mean this judgmentally; just an illustration). The more fully I embrace and invest in student life, the better I can serve within it. I shouldn't separate the academic and social realms, just like I shouldn't separate cleaning my house form entertaining friends at my house—I can't do the latter without doing the rather-unglamorous former... at least, not as effectively.

Finally, in the words of C.S. Lewis... (which I found, incidentally, while researching for a paper. It's a tad long, but there's a lot of truth in it, and if I were you, I'd read the whole speech—it's called "Learning in War-Time.").

There is no essential quarrel between the spiritual life and the human activities as such. Thus the omnipresence of obedience to God in a Christian's life is, in a way, analogous to the omnipresence of God in space. God does not fill space as a body fills it, in the sense that parts of Him are in different parts of space, excluding other object from them. Yet He is everywhere—totally present at every point of space—according to good theologians. [...]

The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course, it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested. That is the great difficulty. As the author of the Theologia Germanicai says, we may come to love knowledge—our knowing—more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in the scholar's life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking our the right eye has arrived. [...]

The learned life then is, for some, a duty. At the moment it looks as if it were your duty. I am well aware that there may seem to be an almost comic discrepancy between the high issues we have been considering and the immediate task you may be set down to, such as Anglo-Saxon sound laws or chemical formulae. But there is a similar shock awaiting us in every vocation—a young priest finds himself involved in choir treats and a young subaltern in accounting for pots of jam. It is well that it should be so. It weeds out the vain, windy people and keeps in those who are both humble and tough.

3 comments:

Allegra Villella said...

So true, it's a hard balance. Reminds me of the verse in Colossians: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.." :)

kazia said...

thank you very much for your comment :)

Oksana said...

Allegra: YES. Love that verse! The more I think about it, the more it challenges and convicts me.

Kazia: You're welcome!


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I'm Oksana—Communication major, shutterbug, occasional blogger, incessant doodler, graphic design geek, and writer of sentimental prose. I am quite content to spend an afternoon with a pencil, a few blank Moleskine pages, and a playlist of indie folk. I love musical theatre, black-&-white movies, and Eastern European illustration. Conversations with strangers make my day. When it rains, I make a beeline for my mug of green tea and stack of 19th-century fiction. I'm vegetarian about 98% of the time. I'm extremely awkward and rather nerdy. I love the sea. My name means 'hosanna' and I'm having the time of my life living to praise the One who set me free.

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