Last night I turned in my last paper for my first year in graduate school. And, in typical fashion, as it was due at midnight I turned it into Turnitin.com at 11:58pm with a whole two minutes to spare! This new experience of tackling graduate school, ministry, and, well, life has been a blessing but also a trial of ultimate proportions. Through this first year I have learned a few things:

  1. I am too old for finals week. As an undergraduate in my late teens and early twenties, I felt like I was king of the free world during finals week. I had my system down for tackling the coming storm and the week long torture chamber that professors had concocted. With 2 lbs of coffee, 5 alarms set, and any old tests I could get my hands on, I crushed finals week. Now? My back hurts, I have calloused fingers, and the eye doctor has prescribed me eye glasses because the amount of reading I have been doing has, “altered the plasticity of my eyes.”
  2. I realized how bad I truly am at procrastinating. Am I doomed to this mindset since I work with youth? Over the past day, I spent 12 hours writing 40 pages and 10,000 words of material. I love learning and studying, but when someone assigns me a project there’s a voice inside of me that screams, “They think I can’t get this done in the last couple days of class: challenge accepted.
  3. I allow studying to devolve some relationships. Through many days of trying to balance ministry, school, and personal relationships, I struggle with an appropriate balance between them all. A parent once asked me how my time at graduate school had been so far. I replied, “Sometimes I have to choose between being a good student and being a good minister.” I’ve had to learn that this isn’t particularly negative, but it doesn’t make me feel great either. I can’t be everywhere at once which is humbling but makes me feel like I’ve let students down.
  4. I enjoy engaging with people at a university level. We all need a safe place for conversation about life and religious thought. It is important to raise these questions and ideas. Sadly, for some, it is hard to do this in the setting of the church. Many times, this area may be only instructional making others nervous or scared to raise important questions or comments. At the graduate level conversation is foundational and everyone is respected and valued for whatever experiences they bring to the table.
  5. I love a good challenge. I did not grow up in a healthy church situation. The whole reason I ended up double majoring in engineering AND bible during college was to play “catch-up” in my biblical knowledge. Now here I am studying for a Master’s in Divinity. I love the pursuit of a higher knowledge of God and His ministry of love. I appreciate how this transforms my perspective and teaching.

So how was my first year of being back in school? Well, it was much like my time in undergraduate work: working on as little fuel as possible, always spinning my wheels trying to get the next paper done by the next deadline, and loving every minute of it. So here’s to two more years of binged paper writing, detail shock, and a new perspective on God, life, and relationships.