When I was “Considering Full Time School” I mentioned how the hardest part was handling marriage in grad school. Really what I had in mind was the difficulty of communication: translating my goals into behavior and selling my vision to my wife/buying into the vision of my wife.
When I was working full time and in school part time, my wife was very gracious to stay up late and do school before deadlines because she could see my working hours and understand that school is beyond that. But when I shifted to part time work and full time school, it became harder to see the impact of my work and consequently harder to be gracious with me when I wasn’t available for family time or wasn’t going above and beyond in cleaning the house etc.
As I was transitioning to full time school, I believed – and still do, since I am still a full time student – that this is a truly unique opportunity to invest into myself, especially regarding my understanding of Church practice, work, motivation, and worship. And seminary is part of that investment in myself, but not all of it. A seminary degree is the certification that gives a church confidence to trust me as a pastor, but to attain one only requires classwork and box-checking, which does not always correlate to personal growth/ability (although it normally does). So, it was and is my responsibility to make sure that my coursework does impact me and that I am supplementing it with other exercises in growth/ability.
The list of means for supplementary growth that I began the semester with was:
- Read/study principles of leadership
- Practice/engage in worship
- Practice/engage in prayer
- Read/study/practice principles of discipleship
- Read/study the Bible
- Study/practice using biblical languages
- Memorize the Bible
- Read/study/practice principles of Christian living
- Maintain a journal
- Practice writing letters
- Prepare lessons for Sunday school
- Prepare rehearsals for choir and praise band with my wife
- (Halfway through the semester:) Prepare material for Wednesday night Small Group
I calculated that if I spent 20-30 minutes a day (during working days) doing each of these line items, it would require 5 hours per day. That was fine, because I was leaving a job that required 8 hours a day and 1 hour of commute. So, hour for hour, I still had 4 left to devote toward studies.
Next, I developed a schedule for translating my goals into behavior (one of the hardest things, as mentioned above):
- I would wake up around 7, eat breakfast, go for a long walk, do some stretching, take a shower, write a preliminary journal entry and walk to Crosspath where I would start my tasks assigned above.
- From 9:00-3:ish I would work diligently on non homework tasks and take time for lunch with my wife.
- Then in the afternoon I would devote 4 hours to homework
- Last, I would come home for a quiet dinner with my wife or go out with/host friends before bed.
That schedule was designed to happen 4 or 5 days a week with weekends for church, travel, catching up on any neglected task, or rest. Here were the problems:
- Nights when I stayed out late, I didn’t want to wake up at 7 and “I can skip a walk without any real harm… I can skip a preliminary journal too; I do one later anyway.. and breakfast isn’t really essential.” So, before long, I was just going to church by 9:00 – At least that still happened.
- Then, sometimes my work time wasn’t diligent. Other times, I would spend more than 20-30 minutes on a task. And even when I was doing everything perfectly, I would be interrupted or attend a staff meeting or a morning appointment with Hayley and thereby get behind causing an ever growing catch up list that my weekends were expected to support. Of course, they couldn’t. So 4 or 5 days became 4 with an intentional catch up day built in on Fridays…
- “Your Fridays are not real work days and we have to be back Saturday night for Church in the morning… can’t we just leave Friday for our trip?” And quickly the catch up list grew again.
- Then, I discovered that 4 hours of homework 4 days a week is just the right amount of time to be enough for 5 graduate level courses. So (since I was so behind everywhere else), I would put my mentoring segments in this window, which were 90 minute sessions 1 a week. More time would be needed to finish my homework
- And like a lot of husbands, I short changed my wife. I would be there when we hosted friends or went out with them, but I would duck out on our quiet evenings. I would go back to church to study more or prepare our budget or write. And it became harder for my wife to be gracious with me.
Something had to change.