I’m back in the States and again overdue for an update on the mission. While putting one together, I ran across something I wrote when I was here almost a year ago. I never published it. I’m not sure why, but I met an agnostic couple this week who reminded me of what I wrote—because they appeared to be such a sharp contrast to it.
They were great to talk to. I made a point of complimenting them on the balance they seemed to maintian in an era of extremes. I also let them know that I’d like to talk again…but left it up to them.
In the meantime, I took a break from my next update to polish up what I wrote a year ago, and share it now:
I saw a homeless brother today. I don’t know if he’s a brother in Christ, but he is a brother in suffering. I also just overheard a PhD student talking about praying through her pile of rejection letters.
That totally distracted me from the homeless brother—because she mentioned God, and her conversation flatlined. She was talking to two “advisors,” and she might as well have brought up Trump grabbing —–, because after a pregnant pause they changed the subject.
No lesson immediately came to mind from it, but I’m writing in real time. And as profound a point as I thought I had with the homeless brother, that pregnant pause was both shocking…and telling.
One of her advisors was just encouraging her with a story of how one of her own published works already felt dated. Then how something else she wrote seemed so awesome at the time, but she looks at it now and…?
I can relate. If you write very often and you’re the least bit introspective, you’ve probably experienced the same. But that’s one area where the bible – as much as traditional academia dismisses it – provides stability.
Do I go back and fall in love all over again with everything I’ve written in ministry? …no.
But there is a level of comfort that comes with looking at biblical insights that God gave me years ago, and seeing how they have endured—even if they weren’t publicly well-received at the time. The more that I’ve written in accordance with the lessons I’ve seen in the lives of His biblical people, the less I have to hang my head about things I’ve written about the lives of His people today.
So when this advisor – a professor who apparently graduated from a distinguished Ivy – commented about her own writing, it struck me.
I’m a product of academia, and a much more practical wing than the one they discussed. Regardless the discipline, academic writing is notoriously dry. So her pregnant pause at the near mention of a book still selling many times more copies than her published work seemed ironic.
Our tendency to simultaneously recognize our shortcomings…and turn our noses up at simple, accessible solutions is amazing. #naman More than amazing though, it’s a tendency that’s surprisingly resilient.
The bible is an anthology that packs deep wisdom into short stories and phrases—which all point to a concise theme. Its style and insight have endured for thousands of years. But it’s overlooked by generations of professors who don’t even enjoy reading much of their own work. #priceless
If nothing else – Jesus aside – “game recognize game.” Great business people tend to recognize great opportunities, great athletes tend to recognize great accomplishments, and great minds tend to recognize great works. But for all its rigors, academia still churns out a great deal of average thinking—souls craving recognition and advancement…within a rigid people machine.
Systems, even those devoted to learning, too often become great places to stifle learning. Academia is a system that has produced tons of dry writing, by stigmatizing the depth in works that fail to fit its mold. Those stigma tend to keep the writing dry…and too much of the thinking stale.
So this irony remains: people whose work is valued more by subjective peer review than objective progress, can stifle the growth of students curious about the path to real, objective growth—with little more than a pregnant pause…and a shift in the subject.