So you have it all done–salary, contract, even your office location. You might even have your teaching schedule lined up. What do you do now?
Well, hopefully you have also finished the dissertation, got all the graduation documents signed, and attended graduation. [If you are like me, though, the first only came after the second, and so any par-tay! was subdued. I got the call the next Monday but it took me some time that weekend to enjoy the moment.]
If all that is done–if everything on a new job and graduate student check list is done–do this: go on vacation. Find a spot away, spent 3-5 days, eat at a fabulous restaurant, take in a concert or show, and spend some money you don’t have. Seriously. I am sure your spouse will not care–in fact will love it.
If you want to know all about God’s will for doing stuff–applying, interviewing, visiting, and signing– then you should read the previous posts. If you want to know all about God’s will for not doing stuff, this is the post for you. Moving into God’s will begins with–like when God finished that first big job of creating a future out of thin air–with rest. There will be no better time to do nothing than when you have nothing to do.
Yes, I know. You got to find a place to live, have to change all those government forms with that new address, and redo syllabi, and read, and . . . (Did you notice that list was all about you . . . I did)
Moving begins with not moving. This is why hopefully you prayed before all the other moving. If anything, “moving into God’s will” begins with the pause of prayer because it forces us to re-center the world. That is, re-move the center we have made of us.
And I am sure during the great job you did getting a job reality ever so slightly shifted toward you. If you don’t think so, ask your spouse. Or child. Or friend whose birthday you forgot. Or other friend whose kid’s name you can’t quite keep at your fingertips for that weekly human interaction some people call “community group” but you have been calling “non-writing hour.”
I don’t think you, Dr. X, need tips on how to pack, how to not move all those books (give some to a library book sale), or how to sell a house, if needed. I think you need a vacation. A drink. And a pause.
It is not a pause button. You aren’t entering into another ‘time.’ This isn’t an alternate 1985. It is still God working, doing his thing, while you do yours. And yours is not doing anything. It’s what we rhetoricians call kairotic time. The opportune moment, the exigent moment, the present that we hold for however long grace allows us.
And you should learn this habit for the future. When say, of course, “moving into God’s will” includes piles of things to grade, mountains of things to read, and blank pages to fill with writing.
Moving into God’s will is what you do–not what you just did. It is not to be confused with the hackneyed cliché “always moving forward” nor to be solely associated with “keeping in step with God” (though the last one should have some value as a way of assessing your growth as a Christian–read JI Packer on that). Moving into God’s will is stepping into a new phase of life, or “season” as some Christians call it. It is indeed finding new contexts and complexes to respond to. It is also reflection, sighing, forgetting, remembering, and momentarily standing in the past, for a moment pausing to let others go into the future. This is what some people do when they see their children ride a bike, blow out a candle, or sleep. Or when they see their spouse across a room. Just saying. [I don’t know for sure, as I am not married and have no children. I do have a Ph.D. which lets me talk about stuff I haven’t experienced.]
It means a host of things you have been ignoring and may never grasp. There is a great scene in the movie “The Pistol” about the childhood of Pete Maravich, one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. He was great for many reasons, but one of them is that his dad was his high school basketball coach who taught him well. One day Press, Pete’s father, gathers up his team and marks a basketball with a small black dot. Then he draws a small circle around the dot, centering it. Then he says: “The dot represents what you guys know about basketball. The circle is what I know. The rest of the ball–that is what is left to be discovered.”
Perhaps you have seen that chart that reflects the role of your dissertation in the big picture. It’s called the “Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D.” and was created by University of Utah Professor Matt Might. [The whole thing is available here: http://matt.might.net/articles/phd-school-in-pictures/ ]
The end image shows your project poking through a small, thin boundary line of an area of knowledge, very small compared to “it” all. It is meant to be a “locker room” speech to encourage you to keep learning, keep knowing.
But it also gives perspective. There is a lot left to be discovered. And you are but a small part of the whole, somewhere struggling on that pinprick of an idea, pushing at the edge of knowledge. While all around there are others doing the same.
And all around them are non-academics who understand very little about what you are doing but know you very well. And they know you need a vacation. They know you earned it. Walk, my friend, into it. It is God’s will for you.
[Raising a glass to you, Dr. X, Assistant Professor of Whatever, Somewhere College, Just Right Town.]
Matthew Boedy is an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at the University of North Georgia. He has degrees from the University of Florida (BS) and the University of South Carolina (MFA and PhD). He enjoys books by Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Frederick Buechner. His research interests include the rhetoric of evil, ethics, and professional writing.