God’s timing. . . . Grrr
PhD work is difficult. You spend the first year wondering what in the world you are doing. You read and read, hoping to come across something specific on your topic that you can intensely focus on. You look for a weakness in the already existing research to exploit. This takes a lot of time and mental energy. It would be difficult enough to do something of this magnitude as a single person, but add a family into the equation and it gets exponentially more difficult.
I recently submitted around 15,00 words to my supervisor to critique. It felt like a big accomplishment and I feel like I am finally moving forward in this whole process. Then I look at some of my colleagues in the field of New Testament and suddenly my 15k doesn’t seem too fabulous. I have friends that are presenting at conferences, publishing work, getting cited in books, etc. All things a hopeful academic like me would love to be doing. But there is no time! In between holding a part-time job to help buy groceries, spending time with my wife, parenting my three boys (in addition to coaching football for one and watching the other two play) and walking the dog so he doesn’t leave us presents on the living room floor, I just don’t have time to do all of the academic things I would need to do to build an exemplary academic CV. And I am Ok with this.
My time here in Scotland is so much more than getting my PhD done and beefing up my resume. It is a once in a lifetime season that we (my family and I) are into together. A season that has been given to us by God to grow in way and in a context that we hadn’t considered before. I was reminded of this last night when I decided to end my day reading through a Psalm. I needed a short one because I was tired, so I picked Psalm 1. I’ve also been writing a lot about Philo and his understanding of the contemplative life so I thought it might be good to follow his lead and do some contemplation on scripture. But the Biblical nerd in me took over and I decided to read it in Greek (the same language that Philo and the majority of the first century church would have read it in). [He said with an air of dignified snobbery] 🙂
I was struck by one word in particular found in the third verse, “season.” The Greek term (καιρός) is interesting. It doesn’t have a particular chronological point in mind. Like one would indicate by saying “I’ll meet you at 5:30pm on Monday, January the 17, 2014.” Rather, its main emphasis is in on the period of time or season in which something takes place.
1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked; nor does he stand in the way of sinners; nor does he sit in the assembly of mockers. 2 Instead, in the law of Yahweh is his delight, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 And so, he is like a tree planted by streams of water that gives its fruit in its season; its leaf also does not wither. Therefore, all that he does prospers. 4 Not so the wicked. Instead, they are like the chaff that the wind scatters. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for Yahweh knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1, LEB)
In this Psalm, the constant meditation on (or study of God’s) word eventually produces results (fruit) in the season that God has ordained. This Psalm isn’t a promise that I will succeed academically, publish a lot of papers, write a shed load of books, and be a world renowned scholar. It is an indication that God has an appointed time and season in which the work I am doing as a parent, husband, and academic will produce fruit for his kingdom. And the beautiful thing about this whole process is not that I hope to prosper in all that I do (as the next sentence suggests), but that the word of God is pictured as constantly providing nourishment establishing a consistent health that will permeate through whatever He calls me to do.
Whenever I look around me and see the success of my colleagues and start to feel antsy about my own calling to academia, I am starting to realize that I need to be open to his timing in a way I never have been before. I guess that’s what this process of spiritual growth is all about!