I Miss School

September 19, 2007

So, I have a lot of things I want to write about right now. But I need to get to bed. So I won’t. But these are a few of the topics that I wish I had the time to sit down and write about: Loving the God Who Hates Wickedness; Emotional Stability? (numbness, the present evil age, etc.); Phenomenal Friendship.

I have too much to say about each of those to be able to say anything right now. When it comes to this topic, however, I have little to say. So I will write briefly tonight just to be able to get SOMETHING out.

I miss school. It’s as simple as that.

When I finished college, I was ready to be done. In fact… I was tempted, at many points, to jump ship a little early. I wasn’t sick of learning, but I was burnt out by my experience of the academic community. I wasn’t sick of math, but I was burnt out on math classes.

I did consider getting my Master’s Degree in something that wasn’t strictly math. The further you ventured from “pure math” and purely academic study, the less the community seemed to reflect the things that I wanted to get away from. I considered an MA in Mathematics Education. But a significant portion of my study focus would have been graduate math classes… and that’s what I was ready to get away from. I’ve also tossed around ideas of going to school to study theology. But my experiences in advanced math make me weary of that option as well.

I am certain that this is true in many (if not most) academic fields… but my experience has shown me that it is definitely true of advanced mathematicians. They are an arrogant, competitive, proud, self-promoting lot of “Look at how much better I am than you and everyone else” jerks. Seriously.

It grated on me. I hated sitting through classes with them every day and watching their little show-downs. I hated the pull of temptation that I felt to leap into that deadly game with them. I hated my desire to prove myself and establish my place among them. It was wearying and painful to watch them destroy themselves and tear one another down. And it was exhasting to continually have to choose not to be a part of this thing that I was beginning to recognize as utterly repulsive.

Their behavior and their attitudes were the antithesis of humility… with a few exceptions among them. And the professors and instructors were no different. A few exceptions here and there, but these instructors were similarly arrogant men who presided over those little pride-war stricken realms we called a classroom. Most of them, after all, were just a few steps ahead of the rest of the students. And many of them were more concerned with clearly establishing their superiority than they were with actually educating us up and bringing us up to their level in any way.

I had one professor who probably had more to brag of than nearly all of these arrogant mathematicians (instructors and students alike). I am going to follow his example and be quiet about the details his accomplishments and credentials. But he had more to boast of than any of these self-deceived narcissists. And he didn’t.

I don’t think I met a single person in that little sphere who demonstrated more humility than this man. He was almost embarrassed of his accomplishments. It was shocking. And it was beautiful. Humility truly is radiant.

But there were few like him. And I had to get out of that world. Perhaps because I was too weak and too susceptible to becoming like them in every way. Perhaps because we were meant to hate wickedness and the truly despicable things that permeate this present evil age.

This is part of what makes me fearful of really diving into theology to the degree that I would like to. It’s painful to watch men who have already declared hatred for God feeding their pride to the fullest. This grieves God, as well. Yet it is completely another thing to see someone turn the pursuit of the knowledge of God into such a competition. And especially when the people you see playing with this darkness are your brethren… professing believers and followers of Christ.

I know that God sees it continually. And I cannot even imagine the depths of His emotions related to this issue. He is jealous for His bride and He experiences pain at our choices for such death. But I don’t think that my frame could handle it. Without numbing myself to it, I don’t know how close of an encounter with such things I could handle before I was utterly crushed by it. Agreement with God. To feel as He feels about that which is fading away. I “know” now that men are wicked. Can I handle actually knowing it?

But I miss it. Not the aspects I have just described… but the focused and intentional application of my mind to pursuing truth and knowledge. It is an act of worship. For me, loving mathematics and the order of creation was loving the God of creation whose design and craftsmanship we were exploring. And what better discipline could I give my mental capacities to than the pursuit of the knowledge of God?

And… for one reason or another… academic study is appealing to me. It is not “the best” way of pursuing the knowledge of God. But it is one method by which I desire to do so.

I know I don’t need to be in school to do that. But school is generally meant to be conducive to such study. And… whatever the reasons may be… I am feeling a great lack of such pursuit in my present situation. Perhaps I just need to better manage my responsibility and the things that I desire to pursue.

I think this is one of the things that I really respect about Richard Liantonio. He is doing what I wish I was doing. I know he isn’t walking it out perfectly. But I am not skilled to discern or qualified to evaluate his degree of success in all of his pursuits.

In any case… He is giving himself to the pursuit of God. He worships with his heart and with his mind. Somehow, this man is serving FULL TIME as an intercessor on the night watch. He is associate worship leading and writing songs that come out of his studies and true encounters with the God he loves. His heart is moving and alive and he is tender before the Lord. He is teaching and helping others to pursue the knowledge of God. He is continuing to move forward in serious studies… currently pursuing his master’s degree and with full intention of getting his doctorate when that is finished. He is proclaiming truth and declaring the Good News of the coming reign of God. Beyond completing assignments, he is writing excellent ideas and could truly contribute a great deal to the academic community (and simply to the community of lovers of God.) AND… he values relationship and lives in a way that reflects such values.

I don’t know how he does it. A lot of grace. God tends to greatly support the things that He loves. And He really wants to be known.

When I watch Richard press through the challenges that he faces at IHOP and in school, I find myself almost longing for it. I miss being stretched and challenged in those ways. I read his papers and I miss writing my own.

I have lots of reasons for wanting to go back to school. And not all of them are entirely good. In part, I just miss having professors praise my work. I miss having professors praise me and encourage me to give my life to pursuing whatever particular field of study they have chosen because they think I have potential in those areas. I miss semester grades. In short, I miss the affirmation.

Oops. I apparently had a lot more to say about that than I thought I did. (I thought that I was just going to say that I missed school.) So… I will stop at that.

I miss school. I’m not about to drop everything and go back to school right away or anything like that. But I miss it. And it seems that my mild yearning for it isn’t fading, but is actually growing stronger.


One comment

  1. empathizing and praying with you . . .

    I have deep and deeply mixed feelings about academia and theology both. FWIW, I think you’re in a great place right now–indeed, it has many of the advantages of those other worlds and mostly avoids the pitfalls. Don’t let the fact that you’re not “in school” discourage you from being a great student and a great writer. Indeed, I don’t think you have, but beware the voice of the accuser. And I don’t mean to discourage the formal thing. Just don’t let it or its absence be an obstacle.

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