Not to be overly dramatic, but I feel as if I stand now on the precipice of the unknown. My work as a degree-pursuing student is finished. Caught in the twilight of an undergraduate degree, two masters degrees, and a soon-to-be-awarded doctoral degree, I find myself wondering what next? Is this the end of the line for my season of learning? I am loathe to believe that. I refuse to believe it. Although I do not intend to pursue more degrees, I know that life-long learning will always be a part of who I am.
So why the handwringing? Why the angst? Suddenly an opportunity is opening up before me. A major commitment of time and thought has been brought to completion. I have finished yet another race, albeit at a much slower pace than most students. Unlike some of my brilliant counterparts, school is hard for me. Always has been. And now I have an opportunity to choose how I will spend any discretionary time which has become available. I find myself becoming protective of it, not wishing to pander it (time, energy, resources) away to the highest bidders or the most vocal opinion-leaders who would desire and attempt to lasso me into projects which they feel are most important. Many of them may seem compelling, or interesting, or even flattering. So what?
Are these pursuits redemptive? Do they allow for the margin I have so long lacked yet desired? Are they a good fit theologically? Are they the best use of the resources of energy, passion, knowledge, and skills God has deposited into my life? Are they a hindrance to the cross or do they cause me and others to live as cross-bearers?
You might be wondering what on earth I am talking about. Has Glen received job offers? No. Besides, it wouldn’t matter. I am committed to my current job as a warehouseman. I believe God has me there for a reason and I have no plans to leave. I am committed to my local church for the same reasons. So what do I mean when I talk about the use of my time and new opportunities? I am referring to those pockets of time which have been used to do my school work over all these years of graduate work, not just my doctorate but the masters degrees. As a full-time warehouseman and a part-time volunteer children’s pastor over all these years, I have had to pay for my own schooling and do it on my own time. Now that this process is complete, I have to ask myself how I will use the time and resources which are now freed up.
I don’t know how this will all play out. I do know that a major new component which will take residence in my life is margin to rest and freedom to explore friendships in the context of community more deeply once again. While I have not put life on hold during my schooling, I would be fooling myself to believe that my role in the academy has not caused me to make decisions which prioritize research and writing over relationships. To be fair to the academy, I made these decisions of my own volition. They did not force my hand. Yet the choices have been made and the price paid. My monastic sensibilities simply made it easier to abide the state of affairs without too much fanfare. Until the last year. Until I began to realize that even monks live in community. So why should I be different than them? Why should the ascetics who stress solititude be placed in the peculiar position of teaching me about community?
I have told a few people that solitude is a discipline by which I have ordered much of my spiritual life, in keeping with many of the great writings on spirituality. I am ready to spread my wings and try again my hand at community within the contexts of where I live daily. Community is the challenge which the Lord has laid before me. Although solitude will continue to have its place, not least due to my choice to remain single and live alone, I am praying that as I live life in my community, I will be able to bear witness to his grace even as I allow others to speak into my life.