I'm currently sitting at a McDonald's in Escondido, California, sipping my coffee, thinking back on a deep theological conversation I once had at this very restaurant (strange as that is), reflecting on yesterday's events including my first wedding officiation and a big Charger victory to launch them into the playoffs, anticipating tonight's return flight back home to Princeton where my wife Amanda and our son Henry wait for me. As eager as I am to fly home and as "in my element" I am at Princeton Seminary, I am struck by just how profoundly I miss Southern California. I miss family, I miss friends, I miss the culture... I just miss it. And I find myself again in the same conflict I've had for awhile now, more exaggerated at the moment—the conflict between life choices.
Do I go on to get a PhD., locating myself far from the rest of our family for at least three extra years or so, but setting myself up to teach theology, nurturing my passion for disciplined and academic theological reflection? Or do I return to Southern California, finish my ordination with the UCC, serve at a church, and nurture my passion for pastoral ministry? Is there any way that I can find a compromise? Can the two passions be bridged in this part of the country without having to settle for an academic program that will cost us more money and give us fewer opportunities?
I have less than a year to discern these things and they're weighing on me.
As much as academic theology can complicate one's thinking concerning God's provision and leading, I'm left with little choice but to simply trust God with these decisions. I've used the language before, and I still don't quite know what it means, but I believe that must must simply 'give it up to God,' surrender my future and my outcomes, and be faithful—prioritizing faithfulness over strategy and "goals."
George Hunsinger has spoken of the priority of faithfulness over effectiveness. "...faithfulness," he says, "is a higher virtue than effectiveness. Some things ought indeed to be done regardless of whether by human calculations they promise to be effective; and other things ought not to be done, no matter how effective they may promise to be." He was talking about theological ethics or "the Church's social witness," but I think the principal is more universally applicable. Throughout seminary I've felt myself more and more enticed by "effectiveness." More than any other time in my life (and drastically so), I have obsessed over my grades, chosen courses for their strategic value, and noticed the "leverage" that certain relationships might give me. In short, I'm not happy with what seminary is doing to me in this regard. I've always prided myself in being a person who didn't make "plans" or set "goals" which have the effect of leveraging relationships and conferring overt strategic value on the courses and actions I take. I've always been the guy who takes the classes that sound interesting on their own rite, does the work for its educational value, screwing the grades and "goals." However haphazardly I've done it, I think I've managed to do what's intrinsically worth doing, trusting God with the outcomes. I've focused on faithfulness—faithfulness to God and to the passions which God has placed in me—and let God worry about the "fruit." ...and that's gotten me this far.
I think I might need to return to those values. I think in this season of life in which I've noticed myself becoming a schemer, I've got to take Heath Ledger's Joker's advice, stop being such a schemer, and "introduce a little anarchy," trusting in God, trusting that it was never my job in the first place to control my little world.