Monday marked the official completion of my Master of Art’s degree from Wake Forest University. It has been a long and interesting two years here in Winston-Salem (NC), two years of learning and joy mixed with heartbreak, pain, and uncertainty. Hayley and I have developed many good friendships while here in the South, grown together in our marriage, and learned much about balancing life, work, and education. While challenging at times, my time in the Wake Forest Religion Department was highly informative, and my work in the WFU Classics Department learning Greek and Latin was a blast (despite the long hours and frequent lack of sleep). Engagement with the perspectives of my colleagues and professors has been a formative experience that (I hope) has improved me as a person and as a scholar. Hayley and I have enjoyed having the time and freedom to enjoy each other’s company, to take long walks together, and to share the ‘Church Search’ experience with each other. We’ve been very blessed in doing life together here in North Carolina.
That said, we’ve also had some experiences which were not nearly as pleasant: the pain of church leadership devoted to their own agenda’s, the physical and mental anguish of an unknown health problem, and the uncertainty of what future schooling might involve. Nearly two years ago when planning the move to Winston-Salem, we purposed to make these years a challenge of sorts, seeking to experience life (married life, specifically) ‘on our own.’ There have been times when we felt this choice was a mistake. Our newly-married naiveté played into the church situation, though the developments in our own lives as a result of our Church Search have provided something of a silver lining to that pain. Hayley’s ongoing healthcare battle continues to weigh upon us both, though through a dear friend God has provided a doctor who is both professional and proficient. And despite months of uncertainty regarding where we were headed after Wake Forest and what we would be doing, we did finally receive guidance to our next stop in St. Louis.
Several years ago while involved in Bible Quizzing, I memorized Romans 8:28 (NIV), “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Some contemporary Christians seem to think that this passage means that the Christian life will involve nothing but good things, and if your life does match up, then something is wrong with your faith, your resolve, your integrity. Especially in light of these past two years, I prefer to take a ‘long view’ of this passage, that at the conclusion of our story we will be able to look back and see that the trials and temptations we have walked through have been a part of our growth towards Christ-likeness. Don’t confuse this with my suggesting that the ends justifies the means; rather, I think that no matter what we go through in this life as a result of our sinfulness and the sinfulness of others, God is powerful enough to direct our path to an appropriate ending. Admittedly, this takes patience, which is (just ask my wife) not my most obvious characteristic. But understanding that the end of the story involves something better than a Disney ‘happily ever after’ seems worth waiting for.
This post is turning into something far more personal than I originally intended, but before concluding I want to re-visit the Lewis quote from the beginning. While there is a lot that can be learned from that statement, I think one key lesson involves the importance of perspective, not only in scholarship, but in life in general as well. Our time here in Winston-Salem has offered us numerous opportunities to gain perspective– some good and some bad– to learn and to live. We haven’t enjoyed everything that’s occurred to us over these past two years, but the important thing is that we’ve made it through those fires and have learned something, that we remain committed to our Lord and to each other. I know not what the future holds for us. But I do know that in the end, our story is in the hands of our Lord Jesus.