Things I Don’t Understand about Bible College

 

I have some thoughts about college.  Bible college.  My Bible college.  If you’re on of my fellow classmates, hey!  How’s break?  Evidently pretty lame since you’re reading my blog.  Do you like how I just insulted you AND me there?  Clever, aye?  Well, that will be pretty much the rest of this post–stamping on my own feet, and, if you’re anywhere close to me, you might be stamped upon as well.

These are three things I hate about what I’ve seen of college and why.

1. Students who are at college solely for the degree 

We all know this guy.  He wouldn’t say that he’s just in it for the degree (actually, maybe he would…), but it’s pretty clear if you really look at his actions.  He doesn’t study all semester, then crams to get good grades on the exam.  He fluffs up all of his papers to meet the page limit.  He works on other assignments in class instead of listening to the instructor.  WAIT WAIT WAIT.  That’s me.  But that’s not me at all.  Yeah, I do a little fluffing/cramming, but that doesn’t mean I’m just here for the certificate.  I just… don’t always care about learning.  Which is exactly the same thing.

This would be a heinous enough crime if I were at a secular school.  But at a Bible college?  Training for ministry?  If I’m not learning, what am I paying for?  A piece of paper to go on my wall that says I’m qualified to help you with your spiritual problems/teach your children/preach the Word of God to you/praise God through music/spread the Gospel throughout the world.  This is a little more weighty than fudging my way through a business degree.  Don’t fluff papers.  The teachers assigned them so that you could learn more about ministry.  Unless your teachers are…

2.   Teachers who don’t even know what they want their students to learn

Seriously.  Why?  Why be a teacher if you don’t have a passion for your subject, a passion for passing it on to the next generation, a passion for them to really learn and live?  And if you have that passion, why not express it in your lesson plans and assignments?  I value so much teachers who are so burdened for their students to understand how the Bible affects their lives that they assign hard projects, not just for the sake of hardness, but to cause them to grapple with the deep questions.  They expect students to learn and remember information for tests, because they know what they want students to learn and they expend their teaching energies on those important things.  These are the super teachers, who live and breath history, theology, communication, whatever their field of study; who have expectations and communicate them.  Unfortunately, when they expect hard, important things, the students give way to…

3.  Constant complaining about homework

I pay a lot of money to go to school.  My parents pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  The government pays a lot of money for me to go to school.  Anonymous donors pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  Extended family members pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  My school pays a lot of money for me to go to school.

All those people–myself included–do not invest all those resources in me so that I could sit at school and complain about how much I hate it.  That’s just plain stupid–you whine about how you don’t like school and you whine about how much it costs.  Newsflash: Choose a different school.  Oh, you do like it?  Then stop whining.  All that money, all this time, is going for you to learn.  What you’re learning depends upon your college and program, but it was evidently something you decided to pursue as a course of study and wanted to learn.  [If you didn’t, maybe you should re-evaluate why you’re there]  Part of learning is homework, because teachers can’t do everything in class.  They try to set you on the right track to learn the rest by yourself.  So do it, and stop whining about how much you hate reading/writing/projects/review.  It’s part of the learning process–learn to love it, force yourself to make it your thing.

 

 

One of my teachers called this The Great Swindle, or some such title: college is the only institution where the supplier and the consumer work together to cheat the consumer.  If such must be true of college as an institution, may it not be said of those seeking to train Christians to enter the ministry.  If it is true that the world genuinely needs what we have to offer–the Bible–then we must earnestly pursue that knowledge of the Bible, of the world, of service.  We must not rejoice over canceled class periods.  We must not thrive on open book tests.  We must not give any less than our greatest efforts in all of our work.  May our desire for knowledge exceed our desire for the easy route.

 

 

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Life is weird

[Disclaimer: this is essentially an online journal post.  I hope you find yourself in some of the things I say, but this is really the sort of thing I should confine to an old notebook somewhere and not post on the eternal web.  If you get to the end and say, “Ruth.  That was super boring and I don’t care about your weird feelings,” know that you’ve been warned.]

Life is weird.  You may have already known that.  People are weird, relationships are weird, jobs are weird, college is weird, fun times are weird.  But the weirdest thing of all the weird things is that nothing is weird–I only perceive it as weird.  This is life.  There’s only one of them.  So everything is normal.  Life is normal.  Somehow, even though this is my first, and only, time through life, it still seems weird to me.  Which is weird in itself, because this being my first time through, I shouldn’t really have preconceptions to judge life by–but I do, and when life doesn’t match my preconceptions, I call it weird.  But it’s not.  It’s actually normal.

I said jobs and college and other things are weird.  And I truly think they are.  Pretty much nothing I have encountered in my life so far is like I had played out that it would be in my head.  But the weirdest thing in life to me is me.  I’m kind of complicated.  Maybe you are too.  I’m not really what I expected me to be.  I thought that life should be pretty standard, pretty normal–that I should be standard and normal.  But I’m not, and it’s weird.

It’s weird to me that I often find washing dishes more fun than hanging out with people.  People can talk, crack jokes, do fun things, provide interaction.  Dishes only talk in Beauty and the Beast, and if they crack, it’s not usually a good thing, but for some reason I find their company soothing.  I need people, but I want to do dishes.  I wish that wanted people and needed to do dishes.

It’s weird to me that rather than familiarity breeding contempt, it actually breeds love.  Over and over, with people, tasks, food, colors…  I love to vacuum the entire library where I work.  There isn’t anything much more relaxing and mind-clearing for me than to spend an hour vacuuming.  A year ago, I tolerated it.  Now it’s my down time.  This has happened more times than I can tell. Why can I change what I like and don’t like?  I’m a fluid stream, but I thought I was a rock.  I was wrong.

It’s weird to me that I’m never really ready for anything in life.  Sometimes I think I am, then I jump into something to realize I have no clue what’s going on.  And when I realize I’m not ready is actually when I’m most ready, because somehow acknowledging my unreadiness makes me more ready.  Tenacity, not confidence, is my foundation for the future.  Some foundation.

It’s weird to me that my mind and my heart still can’t get along.  You’d think that after 20 years of living together, they would put up with each other.  Bickering children at least pretend in front of their mom to like each other.  My conflicting parts don’t even make a show of it.  Knowledge and feelings rarely align.

In other words, it’s weird to me that I’m an introvert.  But only sometimes.

It’s weird to me that trite sayings don’t govern my personality.

It’s weird to me that I can’t prepare for things that there are no way to prepare for.

It’s weird to me that I’m a complex emotional, physical, spiritual creature.

Pretty much, I’m weird.  It really has nothing to do with life at all.  Life is a complex creation of God; I am a complex creation of God.  Maybe instead of trying so hard to understand, I should step back and allow my breath to be taken away by what he’s making and take comfort in knowing that he understands me when I don’t.

 

 

‘Here’

I’m… 20?  I guess so.

It’s weird how it happened.  One day I was a little girl, and the next, people were telling me that I had grown up.  Very odd.

I think the strangest thing about it is that I knew it was coming.

But I thought I’d be different.

I can remember being 12, 13, and having a distinct image of what I would be when I was older.  Acne: gone.  Responsibility: attained.  Life: planned.  Relationship status: not single.  I would be graceful, grown up, dependable, and on my way to somewhere.  I would have figured out how to manage my unruly locks; how to mow in straight rows; how to be happy and independent and disciplined.

But now, I’m here.  I’m not sure where ‘here’ is, and I’m not sure how I ended up ‘here,’ but I did.  And by ‘here,’ I discover that I’m not ‘there.’  My facial pores haven’t gotten the memo that I’m no longer 13, nor has my frizz acknowledged the authority of any of the numerous styling products I’ve subjected it to.  I’m not half as funny, smart, dependable, or disciplined as I thought I’d be.  My mowing leaves rows so crooked that even an orthodontist would be at a loss–at least last time I mowed, which, admittedly, was a looooong time ago.  On top of all that, I have survived two years of Bible college and am still very single (trust me, there’s a difference between ‘single’ and ‘very single.’  I’m ‘very single’).

Point being, I’m not who I thought I would be.  I’m not ‘there.’

But how did I get ‘here’?  What’s my secret?  I just lived, 1 day at a time, until I reached 365 days.  Then, I repeated that 19 more times.  That’s how I came to 20.   Foolproof plan, right?  And I know that seems pretty obvious, but it took till now for me to realize that.  That there’s not some magical transformation that happens when you switch decades.  It’s just a matter of counting days, living days.  I lived yesterday.  It was like the drop in the measuring cup that finally pushed the water over the 3/4 cup line, but that one day meant nothing apart from all the days preceding it.

So, then, who I am is the culmination of all the days I’ve lived thus far.  Those days are broken up into hours, moments, seconds.  Those hours, moments, and seconds contain circumstances and people that I stumble across (rather, that are granted by God) and my reactions to those circumstances and people.

I, then, am a combination of God’s careful planning and my choices and actions.  That’s what ‘here’ is.  And maybe ‘here’ is not quite what I thought it would be–maybe part of me still longs to be ‘there.’  But ‘here’ is a good place to be.  ‘Here’ is where God brought me; where my choices landed me.  And if there’s still growth that needs to take place, which there is; if I still want to get to ‘there,’ which I do; the only thing that stands between ‘here’ and ‘there’ is time–and me.

Next year, what will I be?  Maybe I will be closer to the elusive ‘there,’ but I will still be ‘here,’ because ‘here’ is where I am.  And, try as I might, I will never escape ‘here,’ who I am–the only solution is to embrace ‘here’ and make it, by daily choices, into what I wanted ‘there’ to be.  To fill that measuring cup full of beautiful drops of choices and days.  That’s the beauty of ‘here.’  Some stranger will not take my place; I get to be me, and to improve me.  So, till next year,

I’ll just be here.

Be still

Be still and know that I am God [Psalm 46:10].

Today was not a still day.  Today was insane at times–the very opposite of relaxation, peace, calm.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I got a job at Dairy Queen for the summer, and I’m on my third week of burgers and fries.  Honestly, DQ has restored my faith in fast-food.  No, it’s not the healthiest thing you could eat–neither does it claim to be–but it’s not terrible.  We don’t drop burgers on the floor and still serve them.  We chop our tomatoes and onions fresh every morning (unlike MacDonalds, but that’s another story you probably don’t want to hear…).  Your meal was made fresh–your double cheeseburger hasn’t been sitting on a warmer for an hour.  That would be icky.

Working at DQ has also opened my eyes a little.  Okay, so you don’t get a bachelors degree to go make blizzards, but this isn’t for the fainhearted.  It’s a job that’s high stress–lots to remember, lots of multi-tasking, fast-paced.  There are days like today.  When there are less people scheduled than usual.  When 3 customers come in before I have my station ready to go.  When there are 45 minutes of non-stop orders over lunch.  When the manager and your co-worker argue over the counter for 7 minutes about whether or not the bacon cheese burger is made to the customer’s no-pickle, no-mayo specifications.  7 minutes when there are 3 orders still to be filled for front counter and 5 for drive-thru.

[Whiny whiny whiny.  So Ruth got a job and she’s not used to being a grown up and dealing with life yet.  Yep, I’m not.  Bear with me.]

There are moments when I’m not still.

Today, I was running between the freezer and the fry-fryer (wait… what?), and I paused, mid-moment.  I almost froze mid-air–

Be still.

I was very not still at that moment–of course not still physically, but also not still mentally, spiritually.

Be still.

God, how can I be still?  How can there be any peace and rest in this chaos that is my life right now?

Child, be still.  Just rest.  I know this moment it is hard to slow down and feel my presence, but I’m not asking you to come to me.  Remember, I’m before time and after time.  I created time.  I’m not bound by it any more than I’m bound by gravity, inertia, distance–they’re my creations, not my rulers.  You can’t come where I am, to this timelessness–at least not yet.  Someday.  But for today, you’re in this moment.  You’re busy, rushed, frazzled by the ticking clock, the deadline, the beeper telling you the cheese curds are done.  No, today, I’m not asking you to escape time and be still.  I, the timeless one, am entering your moment and bringing my stillness with me.

I’m inviting you, if you will, to be still.

You’re worried about time–the rest of today, tomorrow, next year.  But closer than that, you’re worried about this moment.  Don’t.

Be still, my soul.  Thy God doth undertake to guide the future [and the present] as he has the past.  Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake.  All now mysterious shall be bright at last.  Be still, my soul.  The winds and waves still know the voice who ruled them while he dwelt below. [“Be still my soul,” stanza 2, by Kathrina von Schlegel, translated by Jane L. Borthwick, inspired by I AM]

The beauty of Jesus’ presence: he is with me every minute, even though he doesn’t even operate in minutes.  He calls me to, every moment, live in his momentlessness–to sense that he is God.

Be still.