Summer Snapshot: Transitions, Instability, and Jesus

For our second 2016 Summer Snapshot [1], Monica Greenwood, author of the popular Letter to a New Graduate Student, shared about finding Jesus in the midst of moves and transitions. Don’t miss Monica’s earlier posts including Dear (No Longer) New Graduate Student and Gratefulness and the (No Longer) New Graduate Student.


As an undergraduate and now graduate student, I’ve attended three institutions of higher learning in the last six years. Very little about my life has remained the same. Three different groups of friends, three different churches, three different ministry locations, three different sets of spiritual and academic mentors, three different local cultures to adapt to. Add to all those transitions long summer or Christmas trips every year, and it makes sense that I’ve lived out of my suitcase for at least a month out of every year, if not more. In the midst of those years, I’ve experienced seasons where it was easy to handle the lack of consistency, and those in which it was much harder to handle.

Above all, I’ve emerged wanting stability, something that won’t change in the midst of all of the transition and change that has happened and will happen in the future. Summer for academics is a perfect time of instability—goodbye routine, hello new schedules and the dissipation (if temporary) of the community we had all school year. At times, my response to instability in my life has come in the form of missing my family and the church that helped raise me, the people who have watched me go through all these transitions. At other times, the lack of consistency has resulted in loneliness that became obsession. But in all those times, the only thing that hasn’t changed has been Jesus. When I left home, I expected that Jesus being the one constant in my life would mean that I would always feel Him close, or at least that I would feel and see His work in my life in the same way.

Six life-altering years after I moved away permanently, I have learned that who Jesus is has been the one constant. And I’ve also found that as my knowledge of Him has deepened, that He is not the God I thought He was, because my old version of Jesus was so much smaller than the Jesus I know now. He was with me when I got on a plane by myself and moved across a country and into an apartment with three strangers. He was with me in the nights when I couldn’t sleep because the stress was so bad. He was with me the unforgettable day my first students asked me during our classtime to explain the difference between the Gospel and Plato and I at last knew I was where I was supposed to be. And as I changed in the days that strung these transitions together, my knowledge of Jesus changed. He is so much grander, so much more holy, so much more powerful than I could have known six years ago. And He has not always felt close, He has not always felt safe, and it has not always felt that He was in control of the transitions. But that is no surprise. Because He is not who I thought He was. He is better.

These are the truths I’m clinging to this summer as my schedule, geographical location, and friend and mentor group are different yet again (even if only for another two months or so). Jesus is the one constant in my life, and I can give thanks for the instability the transitions bring, because each one gives me the opportunity to depend less on myself for stability and to seek to understand and dwell in His power more.

Prayer Request: Pray that I would dwell well in this season, and leave it able to see the Lord’s sovereignty and faithfulness over my life. Pray for all the Emerging Scholars that we would invest in our summers faithfully in order to return to our classrooms and offices with new energy to see Jesus move through us.


[1] In 2016, ESN shared “snapshots” from members of our network, brief reflections on one way the author was making the most of summer or learning something from God in this season. That could be a mode of rest/recreation, a way someone was growing in research, a new conference or collaboration opportunity, a challenge someone was growing through, a new event to celebrate, a way God was working in someone’s family, or something else. History graduate student Josh Shiver kicked off the series, which included The Discipline of Simplicity (Elsie Lee), Finding God When It’s Tough (Anonymous), Plan Long and Prosper (Tamarie Macon), and more. In 2018 we’d love to once again hear from the members of our network. If you have interest, please drop us a line. Thank-you. ~ Tom Grosh IV, Assoc. Dir., Emerging Scholars Network

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Monica Greenwood

Monica Greenwood (pseudonym) waited impatiently for three years for the day she walked into her first graduate seminar in philosophy. Before that momentous day, she was an undergrad upperclassman studying philosophy at a state school known for its agriculture program. Today, she writes, studies, teaches, and her passion remains the same: the education of undergraduates, specifically underclassmen, in introductory philosophy courses.

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