This article originally appeared in the March 13, 2018 issue of Et Cetera, Regent College’s student newspaper.
The weekend was tough. A New Testament midterm meant that I didn’t have as much time to work on the Christian Thought & Culture paper, and I still had to do the weekly discussion question. Top things off with insomnia three nights in a row, along with a dose of depression about personal stuff, and it made for a stressful few days. I know I wasn’t alone in feeling the pressure, and I’m not singling myself out from all the other first-years and people around the college who could tell similar stories of plumbing-issue fallout. [Regent experienced some serious plumbing problems that shut down the campus for a few days.] In my case, though, the pressure squeezed and brought something else to the surface as well, something I didn’t expect.
I don’t feel smart enough for Regent.
Scrambling for a paper topic, wondering what to say or even how to begin research, changing my topic, still unsure what my point even is and how research is supposed to be done—I thought I knew how to do this stuff. I expected to work hard at gaining knowledge and even some wisdom, and I know we’re all here to learn…but I can’t help feeling like everyone else has gotten a head start.
I overhear conversations about eschatology and sacramentalism and whatnot, and I quickly become fascinated, then just as quickly realize I don’t have nearly enough background reading or whatever it is that got my fellow students so discursive in the topic. I’d love to present a paper at the next academic symposium, but I’m terrified of the Q&A; who knows what questions these hyper-intelligent people will ask the poor dumb arts student? Everyone’s excited about the upcoming Laing Lectures with Stanley Hauerwas; and so am I, except this is the first I’ve ever heard his name and he’s supposed to be one of the foremost theologians of our time.
I thought I knew enough to get me started. I love to read and I love to write and I love having deep, meaningful conversations. But something feels overwhelming, like I’m supposed to already know the things I’m just learning about now. As I barrel towards the end of only my second term, I already have fears that I’m too far behind, too slow on the uptake, too clueless to make the grade.
Sitting in the library, stressing about sources for my paper (not to mention a thesis), my friend Gustavo sits down beside me to work. We chat in whispers and he shows me a method for outlining that resembles writing a story.
I’m in chapel and Paul Spilsbury is preaching about the sick man at the pool of Bethesda, with his narrative of shame and resentment as he finds himself helpless while everyone makes it to the goal ahead of him. Yet Jesus doesn’t judge or moralize or tell him to get his thinking straight. He simply asks, “Do you want to be well?” and makes him so.
And after the sermon we take communion together and I am reminded for the hundred-thousandth time that Jesus gave me these things not just to save and heal, but also to nourish and sustain. “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Some days it is hard to remember that I’m not here of my own volition. I was called to this place, and had to trust that God would make it possible. Now I can only assume that He calls me to trust Him to provide friends and stories and nourishment to see me through. That if I abide in Him—simply show up, ready and willing—He is strong to grow the fruit. That His power is made perfect in weakness. And that He is the source of all knowledge and wisdom and understanding.
I sit in the library again, this time reading my NT textbook, and I come across a psalm from the Dead Sea Scrolls: “Blessed art Thou, my God, who openest the heart of Thy servant to knowledge!…For without Thee no way is perfect, and without Thy will nothing is done. It is Thou who has taught all knowledge and all things come to pass by Thy will. There is no one beside Thee to dispute Thy counsel or to understand all Thy holy design, or to contemplate the depth of Thy mysteries and the power of Thy might.” (1QS 11)
And even as I feel like a scholar digging up some ancient scrap of parchment, I realize that scholarship isn’t worth beans if it doesn’t flow out from God’s revelation. There’s nothing like knowing the Source of all knowing.