Thursday, January 7, 2016

January 7 dissertation notes (week whatever).

The first full week of January is probably the low point of the year for me. After spending weeks anticipating Christmas break—an island of respite in the midst of the academic year—the stretch of restful family time is quickly past, and then there are no “islands” in sight for many months. Creaking back into routine can feel so dispiriting. The fact of it being a new year isn't particularly interesting or energizing. (I'm such an Eeyore.) But I’m thankful for the two weeks of peace I got. At the time of my last dissertation post, I was downright sick with the anxiety, but it subsided not long after, and it hasn’t reached the same pitch since then, even when I had to return to campus this Monday. Very thankful.

I don’t have a great deal to update you on, really. After the December 21 post, I did take some intentional space away from the whole question of finishing the Ph.D., and that was helpful. As the new semester gets underway, I’ve been talking with Kevin, and begun reaching out to a few people for counsel—both classmates and professors (not ones on my dissertation committee), and people who know me well outside of academia. I have been leaning a certain way, but Kevin agreed with me that talking through things with people won’t hurt, if only as a “sanity check” to make sure I’m asking the right kinds of hard questions, and not overlooking some obvious recourse that may be available to me. The common observations I’ve heard have been 1.) I’ve often been miserable, and the past three years have clearly taken a toll; 2.) It looks like I haven’t been advised very well, and it’s hard to see how that will change; and 3.) It’s a lot of hard work to walk away from. All of which I knew, of course, but it’s useful to hear what comes up consistently.

Anyway, I’m still in a sort of data-gathering/reflection mode, at least for the next week, and I don’t plan to post about all of that while it’s still in process. (Don’t worry, I am not going to drag out the decision indefinitely, if that were even possible.) In the meantime, I truly am glad to continue hearing from friends—it all helps, trust me.

Now for something a little different—have you guys read Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung? It was actually in my queue of things to read soon, and it’s proven to be more apropos than anticipated. Heh. It’s a short little book, probably targeted to adults a bit younger than me, and it really packs a punch. DeYoung’s argument is that Christians of my generation tend to overspiritualize our decision-making, which makes following God more mysterious than it is meant to be. It isn’t God’s way to show us the future; he tells us over and over again that he wills for us to seek wisdom, becoming more Christlike as we walk in obedience. That’s what it looks like to be in God’s will. It’s not that God isn’t sovereign over all of our lives, but it doesn’t follow that we are supposed to agonize over what his specific plan might be—when facing an important life decision, we should study Scripture, pray, seek counsel, and feel free to choose one way or the other.

There’s more to it than that, but I suggest just reading it. I knew this stuff, more or less, but it’s surprisingly difficult to retrain the fretful old habits.