Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Semester, New Beginning - and how the Sabbath fits into that

It is now the second week of our new semester here at TWU, the Spring '12 semester. With everyone now settled back into their dorms or temporary homes in the Langley area, classes are off to a great start - with very few lost student stories as far as I know.

Everyone I know seems to be pretty content with their classes, and everyone feels pretty confident that they will do well this semester (often qualified by saying something along the lines of "better than last semester"). However, we all know that in three months from now, when papers are due and exams are approaching, that our self-confidence in our academic abilities will plummet. All of a sudden we (generalizing the student population here) will feel over our heads and will regret a lot of the decisions we made over and over all semester (like staying up until 2 am every night doing nothing). In first, and even second year, I would get into this thinking that I somehow slipped past the system and I wasn't actually smart enough to be here. Now I figure that if I somehow outsmarted the system this long I would be smart enough to be here.

So my plan this semester to avoid that thinking is two-fold. First, get AS MUCH homework done as I can while I still have this insane motivation to do well. Since I have this motivation I should use it, and hopefully if I use it enough the momentum will last longer. Secondly, focusing on my favourite piece of scripture while I am in this negative mindset that tends to creep in during the end of a semester. Micah 7:8 says "Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light." Or as a popular song from the 90s called "Tubthumpin'" said "I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down." So whether you are spiritual or musical, you now have a saying in your pocket that you also can use.

This semester I have decided to take a semester off of participating in a theatre production, my first semester in two years. What that means is that I now have approximately 24-30 hours more free time per week. So with all that free time I decided that now would be a good time to seriously ramp up my academics, and of course add all these other things I have wanted to do. On top of doing my 18 semester hours, I am leading a men's small group, going to The Challenge, working, taking piano lessons, being a member of the theatre club A7E, and looking into helping with the junior high students at my church. Now, when I see this I think "completely manageable," but I know that future Thomas is going to possibly think "dumb" at the end of the semester if I'm not careful.

So what I am doing, and what I encourage you all to do is to reconsider what you want to pour your life into this semester. Because it is not that we aren't capable of great things, but we aren't capable of doing our best if we don't leave any time for rest in there somewhere. Last night in my small group we talked about the Sabbath and what that could/should mean to us and I really appreciated the conversation. It is very humbling to think that God has given us 1/7th of our week to rest (that's just over 14% of our week).

In Adele Calhoun's book "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us" she says "Sabbath is God's way of saying, 'Stop. Notice your limits. Don't burn out.'" At my church on Sunday we talked about being in God's will and part of that is accepting and being faithful to where God has placed you right now. We are very privileged people; we have the opportunity to go to an amazing Christ-centered university in a beautiful, free country. However, we still burn out.Calhoun says later in the chapter on Sabbath that "[The Sabbath] is a day that [God] gives us to remember who and what work is for, as well as what matters most."

So as we enter this new semester I would challenge you all to take a look at what it is you're planning on accomplishing, whether or not that is possible, and how much time you have factored in for rest. It sounds pretty simple, and it is on paper, but try and stick to that schedule for a week and you will soon notice that it isn't as easy as it looked on paper.

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