I’m starting grad school this month at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. We had our first day of orientation yesterday and by 5pm, I felt like I had been chewed up and spit out. In a good way…? Seriously, though, even though I was thoroughly exhausted, I was also exhilarated. I think the through-the-wringer feeling came from the fact that my life is switching gears really suddenly and fast, without slowing down first. I feel it inside, like I’ve been running at full speed in one direction and then switch, and all my insides lurch behind the rest of my body half a second later.
I’m such a sucker for welcome week activities. During the convocation ceremony I felt so pumped up by all the speeches about learning and becoming scholars and theologians. After the panel discussions, lunch with faculty, and conversations with other students yesterday, I get the feeling that I’m a small fish in a big pond. I was stripped of any last bit of pride I may have had in my own theological or scholarly aptitude. It’s the first day of kindergarten, junior high, college all over again, realizing I’m not much further along than anyone else. But I didn’t come here to show off how smart I am. I came to be challenged and to learn; to get out of my own blend of Foursquare-YWAM-Anne Lamott-C.S. Lewis-Erwin McManus theology and see things from new angles.
Yesterday there seemed to be a theme of the day – preparing for one’s Ph.D. program. Wait, really? Yes, everyone’s already pushing us past the finish line 2 years from now and getting us to stress about the next thing. Boo. The problem is, that’s already my natural tendency. So I was thankful today when I hopped on the elliptical machine at the gym and cracked open Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies which I am reading only for the second time, thank you very much. There was a poem there, or at least I think it was a poem, by Rumi, Lamott’s favorite Persian mystic. And it spoke to me.
Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances. That’s not for human beings.
Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
But Rumi, I wanted to say, I’m in school! I have to begin reading. Then I wondered, is there a way to go about this season of studying where it resembles playing an instrument with abandon and joy more than it resembles shutting myself up in a stuffy room and poring endlessly over dusty books? Can I accept that I am a human being, and seeing through the distance of the next two years is not for me to even attempt? I love studying and learning and being around others who love it, too. During my time at Fuller I want to embrace the beauty I see in learning, and turn it into an act of worship, a sacred bending to the earth and touching my forehead to the ground in reverence and joy.