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.)
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 fine—as long as you’re talking about it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Which of the above ideas might be most helpful to you during your time in school? How – and when – can you start implementing it?
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.
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.