What was I thinking?
It's a question I've asked myself over and over again that first week of my doctoral program as I struggled with writing papers and a sermon and the intense classwork you expect in a 3 week summer program.
What was I thinking? Am I ready for this?
What was I thinking? Am I smart enough for this?
What was I thinking? I chose to have to write an exegetical paper - again! I must be crazy!
What was I thinking?
Sitting there on Saturday morning after surviving that first week, I remembered what I was thinking the prevous Saturday as I packed for this adventure.
I knew I'd be busy during the week. There would be books to read and things to write, maybe some evening discussion with my classmates. I was sure I wouldn't have time to spare during the week (and I didn't!).
But then there was Saturday and Sunday. Two long, lonely days looming large on my horizon. Surely there wouldn't be enough class work to fill them both. How would I fill those days stuck in seminary guest housing?
What was I thinking?
Well, I wasn't thinking that there would be others in my position, far from home who would also be stranded in the seminary housing.
I wasn't thinking about Chris and Laurie, who love the wonders of the city they live in, and said, "Come and see the Stone Arch Bridge! And you HAVE to have Izzy's Ice Cream! And aren't you tired of seminary food, I know this great place where we can go and have good food and great fellowship!" And organized dinner on Thursday night and a field trip Friday afternoon - and then proceeded to tell us of other great places to see and to make some tentative plans for next weekend too.
I wasn't thinking of Trish, who led me into temptation by telling me as we walked to breakfast Saturday morning about the art in the park show right next to our breakfast destination. I spent the morning immersing myself in beauty with - and this is the amazing part to someone who drags her spouse to these things- someone else who loves art shows! So many lovely beads.....
I wasn't thinking of Elisabeth or Steven who joined Trish and I in making dinner Saturday night.
I wasn't thinking of Lee who accidentally overheard a conversation with my kids, and asked, "Is everything ok?"
I wasn't thinking of Cindy or Amrela or Lesley who also struggled with the same doubt and fears and asking "What was I thinking?" and yet shared their stories and support as we all begin this new adventure together.
I wasn't thinking of the cohort two years ahead of us that was eager to meet us and share their wisdom and encourage us.
I wasn't thinking of the community that grows when we gather together.
As Trish and I explored the artist's tents and ooh'd and aah'd over the art, I reluctantly moved away from a particular piece of art that was just out of my budget, And then I said, "I just realized we'll be back here next year!" She responded, "I thought of that too!"
I think in that moment what I understood that this is more than just a class, or a program, or time at continuing ed. The ten us us are more than classmates - we are a community.
Community is so important. Humans are social creatures – we were created
to be in relationship with one another and with God. We may admire the myth of the rugged
individual pulling him/herself up by the bootstraps, but that’s just not the
way we’re designed. We need each
other. We need God.
That’s why worshiping together is
so important. Yes you can worship God in
the middle of a lake or a forest – I’ve done so myself. But we need each other - just like I needed the others in my Dmin cohort. We need to bear each other’s burdens
(Galatians 6:2), to rejoice with each other and share each other’s suffering
together (1 Corinthians 12:26). We need
to hear the testimony of others who have traveled down the same roads we are travelling, who can proclaim God’s steadfast love and faithfulness at the times we need to
hear it most. And we need give others
that encouragement gleaned from our own encounters with God. As it says in Hebrews 10:24-25: And let
us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting
to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all
the more as you see the Day approaching.
This is why gathering together as a community of
believers, worshiping together, working together, praying and playing together
is important. Sure, God can be worshiped any place and time. But God
knows that we need each other – especially in those times we ask ourselves,
“What was I thinking!”