Loving Your Spouse, Kids (And Anyone, Really) While You’re Still In School—Part 3

Last week, Bryan Stoudt shared about reasons we may be tempted to turn work into an idol. This week, he describes how a foundation of help from God frees us to love others, and begins a list of practical ways to care for those around us. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here

Part 3: You Are Here

So let’s take a step back and see where we are on the map. We’ve spent a lot of time on acknowledging our tendency to idolize grad school, and, why we do that. Which may feel like a real downer, like realizing you’re still living in your parents’ basement while your friends are getting paid and sipping champagne in Manhattan.

Joking aside, getting honest about the power our school work or professional training exert over us is an absolutely critical first step to receiving God’s help and breaking free. And one we’ll need to return to again and again.

If we don’t have that foundation, all the tips, tricks and hacks in the world won’t help. If we are building on that foundation, though, they may be exactly what we need to move forward.

15 Ways You Can Love Your Spouse, Kids & Others While You’re Still In School (Or Training)

Now that we’ve done the hard part, let’s look at some practical ways we can love the people around us during our graduate and professional training. Up front, I’d like to acknowledge my friends who shared fresh insight from their lives in the academic trenches. (You know who you are.)

  1. Lose the victim mentality. With (literally) limitless amounts to learn and do, it’s easy to feel like we’re victims without choices. And while we can’t control everything, we all have some choices, and God truly is sovereign over them all. When we lose our victim mindset, we’re free to be response-able and truly present with the people around us.
  2. Stay connected to God. Our personal relationship with Christ rarely feels urgent, but staying connected to him is the only way we can keep loving others during the often-dry seasons of our schooling. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (see John 15:1-11).
  3. Remember your place. When everyone around us is stressing out, it feels like the world will implode if we don’t get everything just right. But while our work matters deeply to God and will help others, in the grand scheme of things everything will go along just fine no matter how we do. Which takes the pressure off and enables us watch a movie with our spouse or linger with a classmate over an important conversation.
  4. Talk through expectations ahead of time. When you and your spouse talk through your expectations before one (or both) of you enters graduate or professional school, it allows you to reach a healthy compromise. You’ll probably need to make adjustments later as your circumstances change, too, which is fineas long as you’re talking about it.
  5. Set limits. Recognizing the freedom and value we have in Christ empowers us to see our options and set appropriate limits. For example, during grad school Brian tried really hard to keep his school-related commitments confined to an 8am-5pm schedule. Some students (like third- and fourth-year medical students) won’t be able to do this, but others will.
  6. Observe the Sabbath. We can debate about whether the New Testament requires Christians to observe the Sabbath, but the reality is that we all need more rest in our lives than we’re taking. Blocking off a day for public worship, fellowship, time with family and friends, and things we just enjoy, is huge.
  7. Pray. Your training will impact the time you can be physically present with others, but we can pray for our family and friends anywhere, and often while we’re working. From prison, Paul prayed for the Ephesian church: “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…” (Ephesians 3:16-17)

I’ll continue this list in my next post.

Question

Which of the above ideas might be most helpful to you during your time in school?  How – and when – can you start implementing it?

Prayer

Father, life – and school – are so busy and overwhelming.  Please show me one small, but real, step I can take toward becoming more Christ-like this week.  Help your kingdom to come in and through to your glory.  In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

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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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4 Comments

  • Kle.seaton@gmail.com'
    Kelly commented on April 18, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for the series of posts – very helpful thoughts for those headed to or in graduate school!

    Taking a Sabbath during grad school was huge for me – amazing how refreshing it was and also a means of resetting perspective.

    I have also been thinking lately about how “our personal relationship with Christ rarely feels urgent”. Do you have any thoughts on ways to change that, or practices that remind you of the urgency and importance of prioritizing your relationship to Christ?

    • Bryan Stoudt commented on April 18, 2016 Reply

      Hi Kelly! Thank you for your kind words.

      I’m glad that taking a Sabbath was helpful for you during grad school. Definitely true for me, too.

      I appreciate your searching question. While (as you know) there’s no silver bullet, one of the things I try to do is take Scriptures like John 15:1-11 (mentioned in the post) and pray through them, asking God to help me actually believe them and live like they are true. This often involves on-the-spot repentance and petition, both when I read them in my devotional times, and, when I catch myself living like other things (like work) are more important.

      Over time, I’ve also really come to value simply making a good decision with the moment right in front of me, since that’s the only one I really have. While I often make mistakes and get distracted in prioritizing my relationship with Christ, it simplifies things for me. For example, every morning I’m faced with the choice of starting with emails or social media on the one hand, or, beginning with devotions on the other. I try to just be faithful to Christ in this moment and start with devotions. Over the years, these little moments add up to a growing (if imperfect) relationship with Christ.

  • kbulleit@yahoo.com'
    Kristie commented on April 18, 2016 Reply

    This series is helpful for those of us out in the workforce too! For me, the suggestion that resonated with me the most is the idea of losing the victim mentality. It is all too easy to feel like the “Academy” is in control rather than God. However, I have recently been reminded that God has made a whole host of choices available, and the most freeing choice of all is to choose to serve Him in daily life rather than work. Just that change of attitude can really alter my week, but I have to re-visit that decision moment by moment sometimes. So, thank you for these posts.

  • Bryan Stoudt commented on April 18, 2016 Reply

    Hi Kristie, thanks for your encouragement and personal testimony of the difference it makes when we serve the Lord in our everyday lives. It’s so true that we have to make this decision again and again!

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