This post is more filled with my own reflections on the past year than on anything else. I may describe things I’ve learned, I may talk about events or people who influenced my thoughts, I may run with a topic that has been on my mind. This might not make sense, but it will be a valuable look into my mind.
It has been a year of growth, though it seems every bit of growth takes more and more trust in God. As I think about the ways God has challenged me, I think there is a significant change. Where last year and the beginning of this year I didn’t have work (and thus had to trust God to provide outside of my own means), for the majority of this year I’ve had all the work I can handle (which obviously brings about its own set of challenges). In February I started working for Moody Publishers, packing and shipping books to major distributors (Amazon, Lifeway, and the like). I worked 27 hours a week there, in addition to 10 hours a week for my staff position at my church and being a full time student. I remained in both of those positions until the spring semester ended, and at that point I began working for the tech support department at Moody (where I am currently). More on that later. During the spring semester, I was incredibly busy, yet I consider it to have been one of the richest times of spiritual growth I’ve ever experienced. I believe this was largely related to the fact that I worked straight through three nine hour shifts every week from February to the end of May. I don’t think I appreciated it at the time, but that job required so little mental work that I could reflect on everything I was learning, from classes to personal Bible study. All of that time for reflection allowed me to internalize the things I learned in a deeper way than I’ve ever done before.
Fast forward to the beginning of May. The first week of May I had 4 job interviews (talk about lots of work!). I was offered three of the jobs, and I wound up choosing to work for Moody’s tech support department, mainly because they were able to offer me summer hours, and I had decided a few months earlier to stay and work in Chicago over the summer. That has turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made since starting at Moody. I love the work, and I work with some of the best people around.
I got a cheap apartment for the summer with a friend (I love you, Chris!) and biked to work every day. Summer in Chicago is an absolute blast. I don’t think there was a single week I didn’t go to a free concert or movie, play volleyball on the beach with some of the friends I made this summer (shout out to Mike, Michelle, Olivia, Brandon and everyone else!), invite friends over to my apartment for dinner or randomly decide to go for a bike ride in the middle of the night. Over the summer I put a ton of time into developing friendships and learning as much as possible about my job. It was a great opportunity to relax, catch up on sleep and recharge for my sophomore year at Moody. I also got a chance to fly home to San Diego and surprise most of my family by showing up on the doorstep unannounced. Yes, my first stop on the way home from the airport was for In-N-Out, and yes, I did get some real Mexican food while I was at home. As anyone who is close to me knows, one of the quickest ways to my heart is through a good carne asada burrito!
Come the last week of August, school started again, and with it a new set of challenges. I took Greek grammar this past semester, and it kicked my butt (in the best way possible). I thought for a couple of weeks that I was going to fail the class. By the grace of God, I not only passed, but did so with a great grade. Not only that, I really learned from it. More than just learning the language, I learned the discipline required to successfully study a language (spoiler alert: it’s a lot). That’s not to say that I’ve got it down, I have a lot to learn, but that was one of the things that challenged me the most this semester. However, as a result of struggling through it, I have decided to switch to the Biblical languages major. It’s not official yet, but as soon as I finish the paperwork I will be working toward a bachelors degree in Biblical languages.
If you’re thinking something about me being crazy, I can’t promise that’s not true. However, I can explain some of my reasoning for the switch. Vocationally, I want to be a pastor. Generally, the ‘calling card’ of that profession is the Master of Divinity degree (the M.Div.), which requires a number of classes in Pastoral ministry. I’m currently in the Pastoral studies major at Moody, which means that I would likely double up many of these classes. Further, every pastor I’ve ever talked to told me that they wished they could have spent more time on Biblical language, theology and Bible classes, and less on the Pastoral classes, since they learned much more by actually getting out into ministry than in those classes. There’s really no substitute for classes in Biblical languages though. Since I will get many of the Pastoral classes in a masters program, I decided to spend more time on language, theology and Bible, and that is exactly what changing majors allows me to do. Lastly, I absolutely love how tangible the process of learning a language is. 4 months ago I didn’t know the Greek alphabet, much less how to read in Greek. Today, I can not only read it out loud, I can understand most (if not all) of what I’m reading (depending of course on how complicated it is. John 1:1 anybody?).
The last thing I want to touch on is directly from one of my classes this semester. Every student at Moody is first a Bible major, second whichever major they choose. Because of this, each student is required to take a number of Bible classes. I took one on the life of Christ this semester. It was an in-depth study of Christ’s life as presented through the gospels, and was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. The professor, Dr. Ben Wilson, recently finished his Ph.D, and is literally an expert in this field. I’ve heard similes saying something about Bible college being like trying to take a sip of water out of a fire hose, but this was the first time I really experienced it. Anyway, the class challenged me incredibly. One of the most interesting assignments was to read one of several books that are pop culture presentations of Jesus (I chose the book Zealot: the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth), and then to write a 2,000 word critical review. What made this assignment interesting was the book itself. Zealot is a book designed to make the sincere doubt their faith, and the questioning flee it. It is written from a point of view that precludes the very notion that the biblical accounts could be correct. I hated the assignment at the time, but as I look back on it, I realize that it forced me to solidify my understanding of who Christ is, and especially how that must affect my day to day life.
As I finish up this post, on Christmas Eve no less, I want to leave you, my dear reader, with a challenge. I want you to consider very carefully who Christ is, and how your understanding of his life affects you (don’t be afraid to ask me questions, I would be honored to help you in any way I can). Do not be deceived into thinking that the actions of a man who walked the earth nearly two millennia ago are irrelevant. What will you do with this knowledge, especially as we approach the beginning of a new year? I challenge you to let it make a difference, not only in your beliefs, but also in your actions. Be the person Christ has called you to be. To be clear, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should leave a career behind, or that you need to move to a third world country to become a missionary. Rather it means that God calls us to serve and obey him, and this looks different for different people. I pray that each and every one of you would have a safe and blessed Christmas, that you will enjoy time with loved ones, and most importantly, that you will all know and experience the love, mercy, and grace of God in your lives.