My Good Friend,
At many points in our academic journey together, we will meet surprises, obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments. Some will be merely annoying. Others will be devastating. We will be overwhelmed, overworked, and overworried. We will theorize about “balancing life” and will do our best, but such balance will remain an ideal, a mystery, and a pursuit — never a cozy final destination. Mostly we will juggle priorities and spin plates, quite unbalanced metaphors when you stop and think about it (which there won’t be time to do!).
We will dream of getting ahead, but will feel perpetually behind. We will long to make our professors proud but will likely be normal, perhaps a bit above average on our best days. We will set out to read the “Extra Reading,” the “Suggested Reading,” and the “Recommended Reading,” but the clock will tick and life will happen and this aim, too, will be revised. At the beginning our hearts will jump at every glimpse into another room of knowledge and we will pause to poke our heads in for a visual exploration, but we will soon realize that knowledge is vast, even infinite, and we just have to keep moving, content to walk the narrow path before us.
As we walk, we will experience other challenges, too, some of them normal but others exacerbated by the profession to which we’ve been called. The eyeglass prescription will thicken and the silver hair will sprout, though we’ll feel less wise than we’ve ever felt before. The athleticism and vigor of our youth will begin to wane, and though we recognize this, we will be slow to admit it. Other desires and dreams will be pushed to the side as these new and high priorities exercise their jealousy in our lives. To one extent or another, our lives will be littered with dusty hobbies and discarded ambitions.
Yes, we’ve begun quite the journey!
But perhaps the greatest test during this journey will not be submitting our assignments on time, “balancing” school and family and ministry, getting ahead and staying ahead, or growing older and watching other interests slip away. The greatest test during this journey will be our response to these testings and temptations that threaten to destabilize our souls, fracture our perspective, and steal our joy in Christ. Aims and accomplishments do not make a man so much as the steep climb and the stiff wind.
So as life begins to press down in the weeks to come, with all its weight and jagged edges, remember the remarkable privilege we have to learn this Word at this place under these teachers at this stage in the story of redemption. The Son has tabernacled among us, but the mission is not yet finished, because the earth is not yet full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. We have only thimbles of that knowledge, but our mission is not in vain, for the earth will be filled. This is why we study, and in ways that we cannot yet imagine, this is why we will suffer.
Why all this talk about the challenges and the insufficiencies and the weariness to come? This seems a strange form of encouragement.
Well, perhaps the point of aiming high is not the achievement so much as the aim. We cannot control our accomplishments, but we can choose our mission and set our course. The roadblocks should be acknowledged, for that is part of wisdom. But they should not go unassaulted, for that is the better half. So though you find yourself at the bottom of a steep climb and in the face of a stiff wind, keep laboring to think deeply, balance life, work ahead, read extra, stay fit, keep a hobby, and aim high. Don’t give up those lofty goals and good desires that fit with the mission, or that simply keep you sane. This season is meant to break down but also to build up.
After all, we’re training for a lifetime of ministry during which we will be buffeted by surprises, obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments. Some will be merely annoying. Others will be devastating. Higher peaks and higher winds are ahead. Let us not be paralyzed by the obstacles but empowered by the opportunity.
Finally, as we walk together, may we discover greater battles to fight and nobler heroes to emulate than we ever dreamed in the visions of our youth. May we keep in balance the humility that recognizes limitations and the ambition that seeks to stretch them. And in all of our studying and all our knowing, may we fear the Lord, for this is the beginning of wisdom.
See you at the top,