Welcome to my latest thought experiment. You know, since as a doctoral student I don’t have quite ENOUGH to write, I figured I’d add a new blog. Seriously, though, I embark on this project in the hopes that it will both give me a place to work through my crazy, jumbled up ideas and provide me with a record of where God has taken me.
So, what’s my story? Yesterday, I moved to a northern suburb of Chicago to start my PhD in Education at Trinity International University, a private Christian school based out of the Evangelical Free Church. I earned my MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 2010, and will be graduating with an MA in Comparative Religion (as long as I can somehow write and defend a thesis in the next three months) and an MEd in Educational Psychology from Miami University this December. I’ll also be working as an adjunct with Trinity in their Preparation for College Studies program, helping “borderline” freshmen gain the skills and perspective necessary for success in higher ed.
And it is my preparations for this last role that will provide the fodder for my first digest. This evening, I joined about 10 other new adjuncts in our faculty orientation session. While most of it was typical paperwork and procedure, one offhanded comment the Associate Dean made tonight threw me for a loop: in discussing the format of our classes, she quipped, “Not only do we encourage you to weave a Christian worldview into your subject matter, but we expect it.”
Now, if you’ve read the tagline on my blog, you should be thoroughly confused right now. I call myself a “budding Christian academic,” for Pete’s sake. I eventually want to teach ministry leaders how to teach. Why, then, should the idea of saturating my classes with the faith that I cherish seem like such an odd request? Simple: I’ve never really been able to do it before.
My undergraduate degree is in secondary English and communication. I taught (public) high school lit for two years, and my next time behind the desk in a paid capacity was teaching comparative religion to state university students. In both of these situations, I was admonished in no uncertain terms to check my beliefs at the door. At the high school level, I could only talk about my faith if a student brought it up; at the university, I wasn’t supposed to mention it at all. Now, I’m being told to broadcast it at full volume.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s a wonderful opportunity, and I plan to make the most of it. At the same time, though, I can’t help but feel a bit like Plato’s cave dweller who just experienced his first rays of sunlight. I have this amazing new freedom! I can experience education like I never have before! But on the other hand, I don’t quite know what to do with this “amazing new freedom” that I’ve just discovered.
My toes dangle over the rim of this yawning chasm of new educational opportunity, and to be honest, it frightens me a little. Incorporating my faith into my teaching means that I’ll be uncovering a whole new layer of personal and professional vulnerability. Three times a week, I’ll be laying bare the core of my identity and standing up as a spiritual model to two separate herds of impressionable 18-year-olds. No wonder the apostle James tells his readers, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (3:1)
Yes, I have a sizable task ahead of me. But I can’t let that distract me from the the understanding that God has put me in this place at this time for a specific reason and to accomplish a specific purpose. And furthermore, I need to realize that it isn’t about me. It’s about God doing His own work through (and in) me. My task is to be a wise and prudent steward of the resources and individuals that God has entrusted to me — and hopefully at the end of the semester, I’ll hear a resounding “Well done, good and faithful servant!”