This year, I decided it was time to torture myself by going to grad school to get my masters in Biblical theology. I had no idea what I was getting into and if I did… honestly, I would have said no. This past week our first paper was due and I had several thoughts, one of which was, WHOA, academia is a very new and uncomfortable world for me. Why are you all so obsessed with footnotes? And another was how much I wanted to quit because I was so uncomfortable.
To tease this out more specifically, I was really afraid of looking stupid and, in essence, weak. It turns out, I don’t know as much as I thought I did about God and faith and the ins and outs of the Bible. I have no clue how to read Greek and Hebrew nor have I been immersed in these cultures. Now that I’m learning new things, I’ve also had to unlearn some of my Western-lensed leanings. The process of unlearning and relearning, tedious research, hours of reading, and re-reading has made the learning curve incredibly steep.
So let me paint a very clear picture:
I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing, only that I’m being obedient to what I feel God opened a door for me to do. And I am not loving how it’s poking all around at my identity, belonging, and the dreaded ego. The truth is, I am very wobbly, weak, and apparently when you work on a paper for so long, also unkempt. You should see my eyebrows — not cute!
As we voiced our complaints to one another in our seminary cohort, a classmate reminded us that we are loved and belong whether we get an A or F- on our work. And while it feels heavy right now, she told us to remember this is not our identity. Our identity in Christ doesn’t ebb and flow with how strong and sturdy we are or if we perform well.
This reminder from my classmate might seem basic, but I can think of other times in my life when I’ve felt so disoriented and uncomfortable that I wondered if God would show up for me if I performed poorly or showed weakness. This sounds silly to put in writing… but sometimes telling the uncomfortable truth shows us how we’ve grown or where we need to grow.
Boy, am I painfully aware of how I need to keep growing and keep trusting God with my limitations.
This semester I have consistently been reminded of these verses:
“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first, I didn’t think of it as a gift and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 The Message
Being weak feels like a bad thing, but goodness has it made me run to God and beg for His wisdom. Being weak has also helped me remember I belong with Him even when I don’t feel like I belong in my new environment.
I am weak, and He will be my strength! I feel so much lighter thinking of it this way.
Now who wants to proofread these citations?!