In the fall of 2014, I took what proved to be my most challenging class in seminary (It was also one of the most rewarding, by the way!). In it we examined multiple “hermeneutical grids” – ways of approaching biblical interpretation (e.g. Dispensationalism, Lutheran Law-Gospel, Allegory, and all other manner of nerdy goodness!).
But, as some of you may know, as much as I love to read, I have always struggled with comprehension. This makes me terribly slow at it; and unfortunately, for this class, slow reading was not an option. As much as I enjoyed the content of the class, I began to despair that I wouldn’t be able to complete the coursework.
At the same time, I was at war inside over several biblical doctrines that I couldn’t figure out. The result was a perfect storm wherein I worked hard at church…I worked hard at school…and every remaining moment, I worked hard at resolving these doctrinal challenges.
All I did was work.
Don’t pat me on the back.
This was sin.
There was absolutely no balance in my life.
And I burnt out.
I got through the class, but I never wanted to take another one again. I ended up taking the next semester off to regain my sanity…and, in God’s providence, this was the best thing I could have done.
One day, in the midst of all of this, I had a thought: “I bet I could remember how to tie a hook on a fishing line.” It had been years since I’d been fishing, but in my search for a break from constant work, I decided to pick it back up. I went to Walmart, bought a rig and some bait, and headed to the lake.
A few months later, I bought a kayak…upping that fishing game.
Then I started exercising at the gym with a friend.
Then I started taking a day off each week.
Then another friend and I discovered backpacking, which has become one of the great joys in my life.
I know…having fun…taking a break…novel concepts!
But in all of this, I was finally able to give myself permission to turn the work off and enjoy other aspects of what it meant to be human. And the irony is that doing this actually cleared my mind in such a way that I could think more clearly when I was working.
Funny how God’s commands (Ex. 20:9-11) really are for our good.
I still struggle weekly to love and disciple my family well, prepare biblical and helpful sermons for my youth, complete my coursework faithfully, and play and rest. But one of the most profound lessons I’ve learned in seminary is that the fight for this balance is worth it.