When I Grow Up, Part 1

February 16, 2008 at 12:19 am (Education, The Floppy Hat™)

This is the start of a series of posts I’m going to be writing, one each week. When I met with Dr. Rosell last semester to discuss PhD work, he encouraged me to spend an hour every week journaling about the direction that I want to go in academically so that I can narrow down my field early, and thus get a jump start on my future PhD work by reading the right books, making the right contacts, attending the right seminars, and just generally learning more about what I want to spend the rest of my life studying, and teaching. I decided that rather than keep my thoughts in a private journal, I would post them as part of my blog for all to comment on, should they so wish.

That being said, these may not be the most coherent, logical, or profound posts, but Dr. Rosell is of course right: getting my thoughts down on paper (even virtually) can only help me. I will be writing about specific areas that interest me academically, possible PhD programs and advisers, what I might want to write a dissertation on – and, anything else that happens to float to the top of my brain.

Of course, additionally, Calvin has threatened me with forced coffee drinking if I forget to journal. He does keep my scatterbrained tendencies in line. 🙂

I have entitled the series “When I Grow Up” because, well, sometimes I still don’t feel like I’ve really “grown up” into my career yet. The more adult version of the question “What are you going to be when you grow up?” is, “What do you plan to do with your education?” but it’s the same idea, and I get it all the time. Well, what do I plan to do with it?

Why don’t I start simple: re-evaluating where I am, how I got here, and my current vague impressions of where I want to go. To begin with the broadest view possible, I set before myself the whole spectrum of possibilities. I obviously chose to forgo career options like interior decoration, psychology, and music, all of which were serious possibilities in my adolescence, by choosing to go to Davis College, a small Bible college in Upstate New York. In all honesty, I’m not even sure myself how I ended up at a Bible college at last, other than a vague impression of a call to work with “youth” and the shock of learning that one could actually go to college to study the Bible. What more could one want?

So, with that goal in mind, I began 7 years ago an educational journey that hasn’t stopped yet, and probably won’t for quite some time. It still amazes me, at times, how I ended up even from there where I am now. Due to the influence of a fantastic professor, I grew to appreciate the Old Testament early on in my undergraduate career, but even at the end of my Sophomore year when I was fully convinced of the tragedy that was the loss of the teaching of first two-thirds of the Bible in churches, I had no inclinations to make a career out of it. One almost flippant decision to take Hebrew radically altered my path. You may think I sound overly dramatic – and perhaps so – but had I never taken Hebrew, and perhaps just as important, learned it in the way I did, I can guarantee you that I would not be studying for an M.A., let alone in Old Testament, right now.

For some reason beyond my comprehension, I immediately fell in love with Hebrew. I soaked it in like a cat basking in a spot of sunshine, and went on to take four semesters worth. I knew by the end of my Senior year that I had to have more. As my knowledge of Hebrew grew, I began to become more and more enamored with the Hebrew Bible and its theological and cultural mysteries. I developed a fascination for the way ANE myth is used in the Hebrew Bible, and how the pervading culture of the day influenced it. For the first time in my entire life, I considered, then confirmed, that I would go on for more work at the grad level in the Bible. I toyed briefly with going for an M.A. in Theology, but abandoned that idea for an M.A. in Old Testament when Calvin and I decided on Gordon-Conwell.

One other major change occurred while I was attending Davis: for a reason I can’t pinpoint, my heart became broken for the church. While my theology, certainly by no desire of the college as a whole, was pulled slowly outside of the box that I had known all my life, my passion to see laypeople educated in the Bible and being true disciples of Christ became an ever-present issue for me. I saw the damage Christianity has taken because of outspoken people who stand as representatives for the faith. I saw Christianity taking political sides, and warring over issues such as Intelligent Design while the poor, the blind, and the lame weren’t given a second thought.

Two years out of school and working full-time in a pleasant and mostly enjoyable job left me nevertheless unsatisfied and chomping at the bit to move on. Shortly before and quite a bit through this time, I also taught Hebrew, volunteer, to some youth from our church, and enjoyed the experience immensely. During this time, I pondered carefully what school I would attend, what I would do afterwards, and how that combined with my increasing dismay at the state of evangelicalism and the western church. In the matter of the church, I experienced first-hand the nastiness that can come out of those who claim to follow Christ.

And so, here I am now at Gordon-Conwell, in the MAOT program. A semester of classes has made me realize just how fortunate I am to have learned Hebrew the way I did: while before I couldn’t imagine why anyone could not like Hebrew, I now understand the struggle of learning languages the old-fashioned way, and am quite sure I would be agreeing with the rest of them now had my education been done differently. This, however, far from driving me away from Hebrew, has strengthened my resolve that languages can be taught differently, and if only they were, so many more might learn to love and retain what they learn. I also took Akkadian last semester, and History and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. The latter convinced me that I don’t want to be an archaeologist, the former made me pause at the thought of studying more of Akkadian at the doctoral level.

I groan now as I am learning how incredibly conservative this school’s Bible department is in taking Theology of the Pentateuch this semester, and am baffled at who ever thought of teaching Aramaic in such a profoundly ignorant way. My one refuge this semester is my Biblical Global Justice class, which is astonishingly exciting and pedagogically refreshing.

So here I am now, pondering constantly where I am going to go from here. One school after another has been carefully probed, their faculty examined, all the while I turn over what I really want to do. Obviously, teaching is the broad category of career. But what should I study more specifically? Hebrew and cognates? Hebrew Bible? ANE History? Now that I myself am refreshed as to what brought me to this place, perhaps I can better consider what I want to focus on – more spiritually speaking, where God would lead me.

Of course, those who know me well know that really this whole thing started when I saw and decided I had to have…

The Floppy Hat™.

Advertisements

3 Comments

  1. Naomisu said,

    I look forward to reading more of your posts on this topic. Ten years ago, whilst doing an undergraduate degree at a secular university, I decided that I would like to teach both Hebrew and New Testament (rather Biblical) Greek together. I wanted people to experience the joy that can come from reading the Bible with the help of knowing the Biblical languages. I am actually very close to being elderly but it is still a dream that I hope that God may bring about.

    Please do include at some time in this series your thoughts on why you liked the way you learnt Hebrew and exactly what you dislike about other styles of teaching that you have experienced

  2. Earl said,

    Mandy,
    congrats and starting this journaling journey. I’m very excited to be able to participate, even in a small way, in your journey towards a PhD. I can completely emphasize with no only your feelings of not feeling ‘grown-up’ yet (it doesn’t help that one is rarely respected as an authority in this profession until their late 30’s either). I can also emphasize on a deep concern for the well being of the local church. I too do not know where I picked up such a deep caring, but have decided to also dedicate my life to helping God’s people become something that shines to the world around them. I look forward to future posts.

    -Earl

  3. Eric Welch said,

    I can’t tell you how helpful this exercise will be when it comes time to write your statement of purpose for PhD apps. Most people never take the time to do this and really only try it for the first time at the statement of purpose. You’re definitely on the right track.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: