Bryan Stoudt begins a new series today.Â 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 atÂ http://www.bryanstoudt.com/.Â
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. Iâ€™ve been reading and studying all day and thereâ€™s still SO much more to do.
â€œHey, honey, Iâ€™m home!â€ I heard my wifeâ€™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 youâ€™re in school and have a spouse or kids, I know you understand what Iâ€™m talking about. Â Balancing your school work or professional training with the rest of life is complicated at best.
And even if you donâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t do that to usâ€¦ right?
Itâ€™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 isnâ€™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, itâ€™s well worth fighting for progress. The question, though, is â€œhowâ€?
The Heart Of The Matter
Weâ€™ll get to some practical tips soon, but letâ€™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 dayâ€”or momentâ€”we love it more than our families. Or the guy next to us in the lab. Â
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 thatâ€™s why we try to hide them both.)
Itâ€™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 itâ€™s out of balance, it becomes idolatry, the act of putting somethingâ€”or someoneâ€”in Godâ€™s place. As Paul puts it, we â€˜exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creatorâ€™ (Romans 1:25). Â
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 Israelâ€™s elders, Ezekiel says that they â€˜have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their facesâ€™ (14:2). Notice that idols here arenâ€™t statues of wood or stone, but â€˜iniquityâ€™ (= sin) that has gone â€œinto their heartsâ€ and obscured their vision.
Since weâ€™re academics, letâ€™s run a little experiment together. Â Hold your hand in front of your face. Now look around. What do you see?
Thatâ€™s exactly what happens when we elevate our graduate or professional training to the status of Idol. We canâ€™t see the people around us accurately because weâ€™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 thatâ€™s not what we really want.
How do we combat that idolatry and put God at the center? Iâ€™ll explore thatÂ in my next post.
Image Credit: sarahbernier3140
About the author:
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.