Friday, January 19, 2018

What I Learned in College at 41

One year ago, Jim took me out to lunch for my birthday. It was an important lunch, because it was an important birthday. It was my 40th birthday, and I wanted to talk through what I was doing with my life, and what I wanted to do. What I wanted to do was something. That week I started writing The Other Adventist Home.

Lately I've missed a couple of weeks. It's not from lack of caring, it's because of the other something I started last week. I'm getting to contract teach, for the first time, for an Adventist college. I'm swamped with lectures to write and quizzes to grade, and giddy to have a reason to dress up each day. Of course, I'm in awe of the fact that I say things, and not only do young adults listen, they write it down.

I am not an amazing teacher. On the first day of the first class my poor Christian History students had a hard time deciphering how to take notes. I was too excited to tell them the stories, I hadn't given much thought to what might go on the test. And I got so caught up with my material on how to write a speech, I nearly forgot to have the Public Speaking students sign up to give theirs.

I'm figuring it out. Most of what I'm learning is that this is much more about them than me. I was so worried about making a poor showing, and it turns out my performance isn't all that important. I'm supposed to give useful information and clear expectations, and for some reason, looking smart enough to have this job doesn't really factor in. Who knew?

And I should have known that already. I did know that already. But it turns out the most important lessons we learn are the ones we learn over and over again. The biggest ideas take a lifetime to grow deeper and deeper in our hearts.

We perform best when our performance is the least of our concerns. It's the lesson I learned in typing class, back when there was such a thing--watch your screen, not your fingers. Because success isn't about looking like you're succeeding. It's about doing something big enough to forget yourself in.

In fact, I've decided it's another form of the gospel. The Christian life isn't a performance. It's supposed to free us from worry about ourselves, from the need to do enough or be enough. Salvation isn't about me. And it turns out, service isn't, either.

I get to tell my speech students to put their passion into their message, and not worry about looking silly. That goes for me, too. That goes for the church, too. Witnessing is about caring more for someone else's heart more than our own awkwardness* talking about spiritual things. Service is about caring more for their needs than our personal comfort.

The Christian life is about someone else. We don't have to be enough because we have a God who gives us more than enough. Who gives us enough to share.

That's what I've learned in my brief (and dizzying) two weeks. I'm going back again on Monday. Because it turns out, at 41, I still have a lot to learn.

*Not that awkwardness isn't an important social cue--only that my concern has to be if the other person feels awkward, not if I do.


  1. Wait till you get to 61! If you maintain an ongoing relationship with Christ, it gets easier as you age to say what you need to say in order to be a witness. You really don't worry too much about your image anymore AND you speak with a lot more confidence. God go with you in your teaching efforts.

    Tom King

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