Loving Your Spouse, Kids (And Anyone, Really) While You’re Still In School—Part 1

Bryan Stoudt begins a new series today. Bryan is the author of one of ESN’s widely visited posts, Advent Awakening: How the Story of the Wise Men Can Transform our Worship Once Again. He also blogs regularly at http://www.bryanstoudt.com/

Part 1: On Caring for Your Family During Grad School (Scholar’s Compass)

Shoot. As I heard the front door open from my basement study, I grew frustrated. I’ve been reading and studying all day and there’s still SO much more to do.

“Hey, honey, I’m home!” I heard my wife’s cheerful voice calling to me as she burst through the door.

In an instant, I felt like I was caught between two worlds. I was (and am) crazy in love with my wife, but after getting married it felt like there was never enough time. For school. Or her.

If you’re in school and have a spouse or kids, I know you understand what I’m talking about.  Balancing your school work or professional training with the rest of life is complicated at best.

And even if you don’t have a family yet, or feel called to be single, it can be hard to make time for others.

And yet, deep down as Christians we know that the God who calls us to our studies and training calls us to be in community with others. Although it feels like those things are in irresolvable conflict, we know that, somehow, God wouldn’t do that to us… right?

family portrait photoIt’s one thing to say that our life in academics and the rest of life can happily co-exist in theory, and quite another to believe that when your experiment or thesis isn’t going well. Or when you get scooped or have to wake up at 3 am for your surgery rotation.

But while we may never quite get to a place of total balance and peace, it’s well worth fighting for progress. The question, though, is “how”?

The Heart Of The Matter

We’ll get to some practical tips soon, but let’s start by cutting right to the chase. For most of us, the deepest reason we struggle to care for our families and make space for meaningful relationships is that we worship our work.

To put it another way, on a bad dayor momentwe love it more than our families. Or the guy next to us in the lab.  

The amount of time, effort and emotional energy we put into our school work reflects the importance we place upon it. Along with the way we spend our money, the way we spend our time shows what we treasure. (Maybe that’s why we try to hide them both.)

It’s not wrong, of course, to spend a lot of time in our academic pursuits. God wants us to. In fact, this is worship when we do it for the Lord and keep it in balance with the other things God is calling us to (see Colossians 3:23).

But when it’s out of balance, it becomes idolatry, the act of putting somethingor someonein God’s place. As Paul puts it, we ‘exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator’ (Romans 1:25).  

Ezekiel 14 gives us a different, more graphic image of idolatry. One that helps us understand its effect on our ability to love our families and others well. Speaking of Israel’s elders, Ezekiel says that they ‘have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces’ (14:2). Notice that idols here aren’t statues of wood or stone, but ‘iniquity’ (= sin) that has gone “into their hearts” and obscured their vision.

Since we’re academics, let’s run a little experiment together.  Hold your hand in front of your face. Now look around. What do you see?

That’s exactly what happens when we elevate our graduate or professional training to the status of Idol. We can’t see the people around us accurately because we’re viewing them through the distorted lens of our program.

When that happens, our families and the people we care about get missed, neglected, hurt and become sources of resentment instead of joy. Even though that’s not what we really want.

How do we combat that idolatry and put God at the center? I’ll explore that in my next post.

Image Credit: sarahbernier3140

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Bryan Stoudt

Bryan Stoudt is a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary and pastors healthcare students in Philadelphia, where he serves as the Christian Medical & Dental Association's Area Director. He and his wife Sharon have four wonderful children. Bryan blogs about 'following Jesus in a noisy, broken world' at www.bryanstoudt.com.

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