School and work-related epiphany

Hi blog and readers. I continue to neglect you. We’ve actually had little to no internet availability at home since last Friday. But that has been good. I’m more productive when I’m not checking Facebook for 20 minutes every half hour or so.

The end is in sight. I preach on Hebrews 13 in class tomorrow and, as usual, am dissatisfied with what I have prepared so far and will continue to feel this way, no matter how many times I revise. After that I have to write an analysis of Ruth 4:13-17, with focus on Hebrew narrative sequence, theology, and the editor’s textual notes in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (the critical Hebrew text on which modern translations are based), masora parva (marginal textual notes added by the Masoretes in the Middle Ages). The paper is kind of like a commentary on the text, but it’s not supposed to look like a commentary. I have never written a paper like this and have no clue how to put something like this together in prose format. Then I have a short interaction with an article to write. And then on the weekend I will write the final paper for my Old Testament Text and Interpretation class.

That may sound like a lot, but I can see the end and it seems manageable.

My epiphany:

The courses offered at the seminary have varying degrees of difficulty. Some assignments require an enormous amount of work to complete and others can be completed quickly and with ease. Since starting seminary I have felt two things about the “easier” courses.  First,I have felt like the “easier” courses were short-changing me on my education. While I do think that some of the courses could use improvement or a slightly altered focus, I have come to realize that it is not an unrealistic expectation for a professor to have that I will supplement my course readings and assignments with additional material. No professor has vocalized such an expectation, so it may not actually exist. What is nevertheless important for me to recognize is that to some degree I make the course experience as valuable as I make it. If I choose to simply dash off the “easy” assignments without much thought, because I know I’ll get a good grade anyway, the loss of learning is my own fault, not, for the most part, the professor’s. Seminary is, in some senses, only a starting place, a foundation for life-long theological and pastoral reflection.

That actually isn’t my epiphany, but a lead up  to it. My epiphany, which came to me this afternoon, is this:

The second thing I have felt about the “easy” seminary courses is guilt over the relatively little time I spend on completing assignments. I don’t know if this is what people mean when they refer to the “Protestant work ethic,” but somehow it is ingrained in my head that only assignments into which I have poured blood, sweat, and tears are valuable and worthwhile doing.

If I get a good grade on a difficult assignment, all is well and good. However, when I get a good grade on an assignment which was easy to complete, I feel some degree of guilt, because it feels like the easy papers don’t deserve good grades.

It occurred to me today, however, that this isn’t simply a question of difficult papers being more deserving. What that perspective neglects to factor in is that my brain may well function better in different assignment contexts. If I recognize that some assignments are easier simply because my brain is better able to process them, then suddenly a paper can both be easy and quick to write and of a quality deserving a good grade.

This may not seem like something worth the term “epiphany”, but it makes a huge difference to the perspective I have of my own work and relieves a whole lot of unnecessary guilt.

2 thoughts on “School and work-related epiphany

  1. Rick Wadholm Jr

    If you want I could always speak with those professors you feel you didn’t work hard enough for to deserve those good grades from ;-). BTW…if you have any questions about the BHS text and I can offer any way of pointing you in the right direction…just shoot me an email. I won’t do your work for you, but I’d gladly point in the right direction (hopefully) :-).

  2. Marc

    Thanks for the offer, Rick. From what I’ve done so far, the text for that section of Ruth is quite straightforward (not too many editor’s textual notes, for instance), which means the bulk of the paper will have to talk about narrative sequence and the theology of the passage.

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