And I’m not a very patient person.
There’s no way around it today, however. My trip began at 8am EST, as Crystal drove me to State College for the first leg of my trip. My (first) flight left SCE at 11:54am and touched down in Detroit at 1:13pm.
Now I wait.
I wait until 3:05pm EST, when I boarding begins for my flight to Amsterdam. An hour or so later, we will taxi down the runway for takeoff.
Approximately eight hours later I will land in Amsterdam for a four hour layover before catching my final flight, which is a brief one hour jaunt to Birmingham.
Customs, a wait for the shuttle to my hotel and hopefully a nap will follow.
As I sit here, I and wait, I must admit that the journey that lies ahead feels daunting. It seems like a burden, an obstacle to be overcome.
Waiting, however, provides some much needed time for reflection. Reflection about that all has taken place and brought me to this point.
Years of school and academic instruction have brought me to this point. I am fortunate enough to have parents who cared. They cared (and still do care) about me. They cared about my education. They valued education and they taught me to value education. They read to me when I was a child. They took the time to teach me the basics and made the effort (often at great expense) to provide a quality education for my siblings as well as myself.
In elementary school I had teachers who took an interest, teachers that saw me not as a number or assignment but as an individual with potential.
Middle and high school were formative and important for my social development, although my academic instruction at this point was anything but rigorous.
College was a challenging and necessary part of my growth. Drs. Eckley, Walters, Paige, Tyson, and Bressler encouraged me to think deeply about my faith. At the same time, however, they taught me about truth and the difficult but necessary task of evaluating truth claims.
A hiatus from education followed.
In 2008, I returned to academia, resuming my studies at George Fox Evangelical Seminary. GFES was a place where I could begin to [re]construct my theology. It was a safe place where I could voice concerns, wrestle with truth and forge a system of belief that would guide me as I move forward. Seminary was a place where relationships were cultivated — relationships that have served me well as I have endeavored to navigate the waters of ministry, while at the same time paving the way for further studies and research.
Educationally, a lot has happened to bring me to this point. It didn’t happen overnight. It has occurred over a lifetime, in a variety of settings.
Eight years of marriage have brought me to this point. There is absolutely no way that I could go to the University of Birmingham and begin a research project such as this without the support of my wife, Crystal. Earlier in our marriage I tossed around the idea of being an academic and the idea had little appeal to Crystal. In hindsight, I don’t think we were ready as a couple for the challenges that two masters and (hopefully) a PhD presented. We’ve matured as individuals and as a couple. We’ve learned a lot about establishing and keeping healthy boundaries. We’ve learned about those things that make us unique. Without these lessons, I don’t know that we could have endured four years of master’s work — the sometimes sleepless nights, the stress, and the travel.
I’m grateful as I approach my doctoral studies to have a spouse who loves me and values my honor and passion to grow and challenge myself intellectually. Without her support I would never have reached this point!
Our kids are at the right age. Don’t ask me what that means, because on most days I wouldn’t have a clue. The timing of this just feels right. Quinton has started Pre-K and Maddie can have some much needed mommy time. Quinton will miss me, but not as much as if he was younger. Maddie will miss me, but she will have some much deserved attention from mommy.
Some of the rightness of the timing relates to my projected completion date. Both of our kids will still be young. They won’t have reached that teenage mark (unless I really drag things out). Most of my travels will be completed at a time in our children’s life and development when I won’t have to miss many of the big things in life: sporting events, prom, parent teacher conferences, birthdays, holidays, and the like. In other words, the long-term impact of my being absent for two weeks will be minimal.
Our church is ready for this. Yep, you heard me correctly. We are in our sixth year at MUWC. They’ve put up with and supported me as I earned to masters. Now they are supporting me as I work on my doctorate. While these things are important, they don’t necessarily reveal why I think the church is ready for this. MUWC is at a critical juncture. We are exploring our identity. We are rethinking ministry in light of who we are and what our mission is. We’re trying to discern what it means to be a Spirit-filled community that carries out the mission of God in the world. We’re attempting to understand what that means not only practically, but theologically. We need to understand what that means as it pertains to how we structure the church; who leads; and what faithful leadership looks like.