Since January 2011 I have been working hard to complete my Master of Arts in Theological Studies Degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary here in Kansas City. Over two weeks ago I walked across a stage to receive my diploma and breathed a sigh of relief and satisfaction. Throughout this experience there have been many lessons that I have learned. Here are just a few of them.
1. Do not give up on formal education.
In our world, there is a deep craving for practical and easy solutions to large problems. We want the five easy steps that other individuals, churches, parents, or companies are practicing to gain success. Consequently, much of our reading and learning takes place on a very surface level. We skim blogs and magazine articles for the bullet points that will enhance our personal and professional lives. There is nothing wrong with doing this. However, we should regularly challenge ourselves by wading into the more abstract and technical literature to gain a better understanding of various subjects. Pastors and church leaders must challenge themselves to think more theologically. Parents must be courageous enough to read books that delve into the psychological and behavioral patterns of their children. Business men and women must not fear exposing themselves to material that might be harder to read than what they are used to. The bottom line here is to stretch yourself to think deeper. This type of thinking has a way of taking us past our limits and enlarging our knowledge base.
2. Anything worthwhile takes time and much discipline.
We want to get rich quick, lose weight without effort, and receive an education with minimal cost and hassle. While there are people and organizations that make this promise, the benefit is not as great. As I pursued my degree I found that it was up to me to remain disciplined even in those times when I did not want to. For me this meant working late nights, on road trips, on vacations, and when friends and family were visiting. Oftentimes, I was sitting at the kitchen table studying while others were having fun in the living room. In those moments, I had to suck it up and remember my goal. There is simply no replacement for hard work and discipline.
3. NEVER give up!
There were many times I wanted to cut my load to just one class or even take a break and stop. In those moments I always ended up coming to the realization that I would be delaying my overarching goal. I just had to grit my teeth, fight off the fatigue and move on despite how tired and overwhelmed I felt. To give up would have gone against my goal for myself. It would not have made sense. The next time you feel like giving up, stop and find perspective and then move on again.
4. There is never a good time to start.
For the longest time I told myself that I was too busy to begin my Masters degree. I had too much responsibility that I could not possibly add something more to my schedule. I said this right after I completed my undergraduate studies at North Central University before I was married. I said this after I was married. I needed more time for my wife and I. I said this after my daughter Madelynn was born. I needed to be fair to my wife and my daughter. They needed my full attention. However, as I looked back I noticed that my life was just getting busier with every new stage. Furthermore, my life would only get more hectic as we have more children and as my professional responsibilities increase. The “there is never a good time to start” excuse suddenly felt pathetic. Whatever you are thinking about doing, know that there will never be a perfect time to begin.
5. My wife made all the difference.
This one should actually be my number one lesson because it is the most important. The book of Proverbs outlines the importance of a woman of noble character. For those of you who are not married yet, trust me…who you marry makes all of the difference! Without my wife’s encouragement and support I would have given up. There were times where she encouraged me at just the right time and motivated me with just the right words. She could have easily encouraged me to stop, but she didn’t. She remained steady and bore the burden right along with me. My wife IS the reason, along from Christ, that I was able to accomplish this.
I probably could list many more lessons that I have learned over the past year and a half, but these are the ones that come to mind most often. Which one of these lessons challenges you the most? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.