It started yesterday in Contemporary Theology class.
All 7 of us were sitting in a circle like we usually do, discussing the finer points of Postcolonial Biblical Interpretation.
I had shown up a few minutes late. I had trouble with the printer before running out the door with my thesis statement. I tried not to think about the points I would lose for being tardy. I tried not think about the two B’s written on the text summaries that were sitting on the desk in front of me. I tried not to think about my midterm grades, my eligibility for the honors program next semester or the graduate schools I desperately want to over qualify for.
But at that moment it was all I could think about. It was like walking into an invisible glass wall with my left shoulder in my otherwise fairly focused mind.
I didn’t like it.
At the end of the discussion, I chimed in with a question of my own after the class had been derailed to talking about how big houses are or should be and breached the academic sphere with a moment of genuine truth about myself.
When I started studying theology I had this idea, that seems very strange to me now, that I would get a college degree for pursuing my own growth through the study of the Bible. I’m not doing that. It’s like I am consuming knowledge that is meant for my mind and trying to feed my heart with it. It simply isn’t working. I really need much more or something much different than that.
It’s confusion and a frustration I explained.
A few people agreed right then and there and the professor spoke about how he had seen this problem taking place on a larger scale recently and that he was having a harder time than usual this year to engage students in the basics of systemic theology.
After class, I got more encouragement for what I had shared during that discussion and it inspired me.
I had started journaling this problem in my notes during the class as a confession to my future self that I wasn’t getting what I wanted, I was just getting smarter being in school.
The problem isn’t new. There’s long been a tendency within Christian education to tout its degrees as spiritual experiences and it’s more than easy to fall into thinking that they are building your spiritual wealth. Over the years, people have dealt with this in different ways, or not at all, it seems, in some cases.
That day I simply realized that I’m a college student, but I’m still spiritually poor, or spiritually ambitious or unsatisfied. I’m not quite sure.
The solution came the next day during my Principles of Marketing class. I was able to draw a parallel between a blog I wrote on voices in the business world that say business degrees are wasting students precious resources and my own predicament with the academic discipline of theology not meeting the spiritual needs of my heart.
As you may have read in my first blog, (http://scottgriffinfights.com/2015/08/29/drop-out-trepeneur/) Gary Vaynerchuck and others are calling for students to stop going to college and enter the working world because they see no correlation between what schools teach and what business is actually like.
I found myself dangerously close to saying the same thing about theology. For all the supernatural potential of the content we study from scripture, the evidence of this life changing power eludes the classroom with mysterious ease.
There is no reason to think that a degree in theology makes me a more loving person unless I take a proactive role in it, extracurricularly, it would seem.
But I found a solution.
I started writing a letter of encouragement for the person sitting next to me. I could have been on my phone confusing myself with plans for later that night, checking my Instagram or watching just one more knockout reel.
Instead, I was getting off task handwriting a letter to my neighbor. To the rest of the class, including the instructor, I looked like I was taking notes.
When I gave the letter to my neighbor, I didn’t fold it, I just wrote her name at the top and asked her if it was legible.
In disbelief, she read her own name and asked me to whom it was addressed. I told her to read it and she sank in her chair.
“That is so nice…” she said. “What a great start to my weekend.”
That letter started a movement. I write these letters now. I encourage their recipients to join me in writing encouraging letters.
We spend so much time on phones for far less satisfaction.
It’s a very simple idea to put into practice, but it brings up some interesting resistance within me. It’s actually a bit of a struggle to squeak out compliments without seeming too affectionate or shallow and then give the letter to someone who may or may not appreciate what you’ve done. You’re vulnerable when you extend that to someone. You have to do it without expecting anything back.
I’ve found that it’s just the kind of workout my heart needed.