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Doctoral student dispatches, Part 2

By March 10, 2014 No Comments
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I’m picking up where I left off two weeks ago, and glad for the responses that have given me much to ponder in the meantime.

I hope I didn’t sound too snarky, ready to quit, or ungrateful for this experience of doing a PhD. I wonder I was overly influenced by my recent experience of being on a faculty search committee, and the accompanying glimpses of university politics it gave me. Or maybe I’m at a particularly weary point in this semester. Perhaps I am especially missing my full-time hospital chaplaincy work, where I functioned as part of a team and had direct contact every day with the people I was serving. These days, sitting solo at my computer with books and articles, I feel quite removed from the people I hope that my efforts will eventually impact. This course of study is a worthy endeavor, I do believe that, but it is a difficult path. I’m still trying to develop the kind of discipline it requires of me. Maybe I am just scared of the looming realities of comprehensive exams and writing a dissertation. I think I will need a different kind of patience and courage than I’ve needed for other tasks.

 I do have a lingering sense, however, of needing to be on my guard against letting the academic guild define me. I guess this is what Jim was saying about keeping my deeper sense of identity distinct from the identity the academy wants me to develop. I feel the tension there constantly. For instance, every two weeks when I sit down to write for The 12, and I think to myself, I should probably be working on something more academic right now. But writing here, and being in conversation with you all, keeps me grounded, keeps me sane, keeps me accountable to my actual primary guild, the body of Christ. That’s the rub for me, I think. Paying my dues and playing the academic game sometimes feel disingenuous when I have already committed myself to ordained ministry, saying words like these in the ordination liturgy: “Trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for strength, I pledge my life to preach and teach the good news of salvation in Christ, to build up and equip the church for mission in the world, to free the enslaved, to relieve the oppressed, to comfort the afflicted, and to walk humbly with God.” I need the accountability, support, and re-calling of my deeper identity that the community of faith can give me, much more than I need the academy’s validation. Help me remember that, please!

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