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8/26/05

Plans...and no plans...

In May I graduated from Covenant Theological Seminary with a degree called Master of Divinity. Somehow, I feel as though I have far less mastery of "divinity" than I felt I did when I began at seminary. But, that's a discussion for another time. Anyway, for several weeks before that my wife and I were planning to move to Charlottesville, Virginia so I could begin another Master's degree. But, those plans changed just a few days before I graduated when I found out I was accepted into the Ph.D. program in Historical Theology at Saint Louis University.

Since I was in high school, I've wanted to be a teacher. I went to a very good public high school with very good teachers--I'm sure that has something to do with my ambitions. At first, I planned to be a high school history teacher. (My favorite teacher was a history teacher and the football coach. He was also the dad of the girl I had a crush on [or, the girl on whomI had a crush].) After a year or so of college, I decided to change my plans to become a high school English teacher. (I don't know if I noticed it at the time, but that change coincided with the time when that same girl on whom I had a crush moved from my college to another, so she could go to school with her boyfriend [also a high school friend of mine]. They eventually got married, and last I knew they lived in Colorado where she was a high school history teacher.) After another year or so, I was sick of all the hoops I had to jump through and red tape I had to fight through in order to be certified to teach in the state system. So, I decided I would like it better to spend six or seven years in graduate school in order to become a college professor of English.

About the same time, however, I became a Christian. It's pretty common that when one becomes a Christian in college, especially when influenced by a particular Christian college ministry, one goes through a stage of planning to devote their lives to working for that Christian ministry. I went through that stage. Eventually it passed, but not the idea of working in Christian ministry as a vocation. (Is that the right word, "vocation"?) By the time I graduated from college, I was married (for a week) to a woman more beautiful and wonderful in every way than the Colrado high school history teacher (no offense to her, of course, but my wife is nearly perfect). And, I was considering going to seminary to pursue theological education in greater depth and discern whether vocational (I'm still not sure about that word) Christian ministry was my calling. If you read the first sentence of this post, you know that I did go; it was a year later.

Through the course of my time at seminary, my wife and I decided that pastoral ministry was not God's calling for our family. Instead, I realized that what I really wanted to do was what I've wanted to do since high school: teach. My hope is to teach theology or Christian Church history in a large public university where I will have the opportunity to interact with students and faculty peers who are from diverse backgrounds. I want to see how God can bring the Gospel to bear in the lives and community of those people through my life and place among them. Unfortunately, while I got good to very good grades in seminary, they weren't grades that will knock your socks off. That limited my choices and options for pursuing further graduate school. Fortunately, I made a very good score on the GRE exam, so I did have some hope to enter a good program at a good school. I decided I didn't want to pursue admission to any low caliber schools since that would limit my marketability after graduating. In the end, I applied for entry to a Master's program at one top tier school (Notre Dame) and at one very good school (University of Virginia), and I applied to the Ph.D. program at another very good school (Saint Louis University). The thinking was, if I didn't get accepted into the Ph.D. program I could spend two years pursuing a second Master's degree, get very good grades, and raise my academic profile so that I would have good hopes for acceptance into a good school. To make a long story slightly less long, I was accepted at Saint Louis University.

The problem, however, is that due to problems with my application packet that were out of my control (well, I probably could have controlled them, but I didn't know I needed to) I did not receive an assistantship for this year. At SLU, an assistantship includes full tuition remission plus about $1000 per month as a stipend. My wife and I have lots of student loans already since we've both been pursuing Master's degrees for the past few years and we weren't real excited about taking out $20,000 more for this year's cost of tuition and other expenses. After considering many options, we've decided that I will defer my admission for a year. The chairman of the department of theology thinks I won't have any problem getting an assistantship next year.

I'm kind of glad to have a year off from the rigors of full-time academic study. A couple months ago, I began to work at United Parcel Service as a package loader during the night shift. It's real hard work, but I don't mind it. And, it's a good workout; I've lost about 15 pounds since I started (which puts me down about 25 pounds since my highest weight at the beginning of the summer). With my wife's encouragement, I also want to use this year to pursue writing, not only in this blog but also creative writing, particularly short stories. During my last year at seminary, I got together with a group of people who enjoy writing and even wrote a story for a year end compilation, which I also posted on this blog a couple months ago. In order to write well, one needs to read too. So, I'm enjoying reading fiction for pleasure on a regular basis for the first time since before seminary.

Other than that, I don't have a lot of plans for the next year. I want to do some things around the house that I've put off for four years or so. I want to brush up on my theological languages (Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German, etc.,). I want to play lots of Scrabble and Madden 2005. I also want to work toward entering the next World Series of Poker, though I don't think my wife will let me.

1 comment:

W Sofield said...

I'm sorry for the loss. I can certainly sympathize with lost opportunities that delay plans. I'm still not at peace with it, but I feel better than I did before. I hope this is a productive year for you. Most education occurs outside the classroom, I think.

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."