I have bad news. Are you sitting down?
Not without intentionally letting some things go.
It took me a long time to see this. College was a huge step up in difficulty compared to high school, where homework problems were tidy and simple, and A’s came without studying. Then grad school made college look like a walk in the park. Surely things could not get any worse than this? I told myself “It’s just for a season, I can suffer through for 4-5 years.” Finally, life as an Assistant Professor. To my great surprise, the life of a junior professor was worse than that of a dog. I longed for the ‘easy’ days of grad school. As the crazy hours started to take their toll, I began to ask tenured profs how they liked their jobs now that ‘things were finally easy.’ They laughed. They had to keep doing all the hard work I was doing, but now had the added responsibility of having other mouths to feed. The careers of their students depended on whether or not they could keep getting grants. Why was I learning this only now?!
I made some very big changes in my life, switched careers, and found that once again I had a life — this time with me defining success instead of the world. Fast forward a decade, and I’m back at grad school – seminary this time, and with a changed perspective and priorities. Here are a few things I’m seeing differently this second go around…
Know why you’re doing this — you may waste a lot of time pursuing something that was never right for you in the first place if you don’t understand both your calling and the true nature of the work you seek to do as a profession.
Stepping stones are often stumbling blocks in disguise — I had way too many fellows students and co-workers convinced that putting in their time, paying their dues, were the price of success, and that a joyless present was the price of a future of bliss. They (and I) were mistaken. God may very well see you go through a difficult period that will prepare you for future service, but choosing a path where you find no contentment or where you put ‘on hold’ vital things he expects of His followers is surely no way to live, or to honor Him.
Balance in life is more about integrating than becoming good at multi-tasking — it’s far better to kill two birds with one stone than to juggle attention between two distinct tasks. Tie-in your studies with the rest of your life and ministry. Pass on what you’re learning with others rather than developing two separate lessons. Serve together with your spouse or family when possible rather than seeing the two in competition. Be a little less concerned with what’s going to be on the test than what you need for your ministry later and what God is teaching you to serve someone else right now.
Back to my main point at the start of this post… don’t put your life on ‘hold’ for studies or anything else. Don’t wait to get involved in ministry. Don’t wait to tithe, to invest in the lives of others, to love the most important people in your life, to incorporate a true Sabbath and times of reflection in your life… today! If whatever you think you are preparing for is so demanding that you feel you need to kill yourself now, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
I’m not at all suggesting you shy away from challenges, but in accepting them make sure that as you go through this season of preparation and learning that you love what you do, are energized by the learning, and apply what you learn in significant ways… now. If that doesn’t seem possible, take some time and think about what you need to let go of in your life to really pursue what you feel passionate about and what you hear God calling you to become. It could change your life.