Sometime back in the early 2000s I was hanging around at church for this or that. Somehow the conversation came up that I was entertaining the thought of eventually going to graduate school. A particularly overbearing man who I’m sure was in my life, in part, to teach me how to love people who drive me crazy, sat me down to essentially tell me I would lose my relationship with God if I went to graduate school. He had seen a number of “wonderful young believers” go on to graduate school and completely lose their faith. He informed me that if I didn’t want that to happen to me, I should prayerfully reconsider my future goals.
This is actually one of those moments in my life that I’m sure God took control of my speech, because what I wanted to say is definitely not what came out of my mouth. While I don’t remember the exact words, I know it was something about the fact that it was a sad reality that the academy was filled with so few believers. At one point in time, the leading engineers, artists, inventors, and thinkers were believers. For whatever reason, that has significantly changed. I informed the man that I had started thinking about graduate school because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had told me to do it. I thanked him for his concern, smiled, and walked away.
I’ve thought back to that incident many times. I’ve since finished a Master’s degree and moved on to begin a PhD program. I know this is the path God set out for me, and I’m closer to Him now than I was on that day. My walk with the Lord at that time was much more sunshine and lollipops. I hadn’t really moved out of my sheltered bubble to experience much of the world. I am thankful for the Biblical foundation I received in that time, and the Truths I learned in childhood I often return to in adulthood. However, those truths become much more concrete and real as I understand them in light of the broken world in which we live.
What has happened as I’ve furthered my education and had various new experiences is that I’ve learned more about the realities of this sinful and fallen world. The thing I am most thankful for in my current program is the way it challenges me to think about things I’ve never previously considered and to think about things I’ve considered a lot in new and different ways. All of this is mediated (one of my professors would be VERY proud of my use of this word) by my walk with God. Through my graduate work, I come to understand more about the world, His creation, and the part He allows me to play in the grander scheme. He calls me to consider things, not shy away from them because they are new, different, and not what I was previously taught. Just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong. Similarly, just because something has always been considered right doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong. As husband wisely pointed out the other day, at one time, it was right to think the world was flat.
How many things do we believe “because everybody knows that” or “we just know” or “that’s obvious”? Do we ever step back and actually think about or research those things to confirm we agree or disagree, or do we just happily move on in ignorance? How often to we adopt some form of thinking because we heard someone we respect as “being smart” pontificate about whatever issue? Do we question that person’s source? Question their thinking? I’m definitely still guilty of this. There are times that I don’t think for myself. It’s something I’m trying to be cognizant of and fight against. Several philosophers conveyed the idea to “question everything”, and I’m beginning to appreciate this more and more. It doesn’t mean I’m questioning authority or being argumentative (although if I’m honest sometimes I am). It means I’m trying to question everything, to consider things from different angles, to make sure that I have a logical rationale for my thoughts and opinions on something. It’s also important to me to remain open to reconsider ideas. New opinions, thoughts, and research are developed every day. I want to always be a student, always be teachable, always be striving for truth and not be so proud as to avoid admitting I was wrong. There is no shame in being wrong if you had a good reason for your thinking. There’s no shame because you were thinking. Not thinking is the shame.