There are rumours afoot that the key thing to think about when it comes to theological students is how much work they are not doing. A very strange shift has taken place somewhere, and it makes you wonder.
It is not unusual in our world-that-is-running-madly-after-Mammon to concentrate on (that is, be anxious about) busy-ness. Didn’t Jesus himself say that it takes a lot of crazy running around to make sure you get enough of the good things God wanted you to have anyway? You would hate to miss out on those, so get up early, steamroll your way to work, overload your timetable, pressurize your body and relationships—you know the drill.
In this strange, rushing world, busy-ness can even be a status symbol, representing how hard you work: bosses promote those who give the requisite amount of their soul, and pass over the others who “just don’t seem motivated” (motivated, that is, to head for an early grave for the sake of someone else’s profit). It is a strange world.
The flip side of this headlong, pell-mell, hell-for-leather, four-score-year-and-ten-seeking after food on the table, clothes on the back and drinks at the bar is to be so anxious about what you have to do to achieve some measure of security, in the midst of all this panic to kill yourself early, that you just want to get off. Where is the easy way out? Can’t you give me the goodies without me having to do anything for it? Can’t I get the bling without the zing—say ‘enough’ and still get the stuff—all with the least interruption to my established lifestyle? Or, hey, why don’t I just take yours?
Why should I have to work so hard? Why don’t other people seem to be working as hard? Isn’t this is the first time in human history that we have been asked to work this hard? There is something about this mad, rushing world that makes me wonder about my work. I wonder about how good I am because I do so much. I wonder if I can ever do enough. I wonder how I can get by without the painful toil.
What happens when we take this lesson from the pagan world (which we are part of, and which is a deep part of us) into our Christian world? What churchgoer wants to work hard at understanding God’s word? Just tell me what to do. What preacher wants to work hard at preparing good sermons? I’ll just get one off the internet and add my own illustrations. (Actually, there is another website for those …) What theological student wants to work hard at understanding the mind of God in light of 2000 years of attacks upon and good thinking about him? Just give me the ticket for ministry and let me get on with it; there’s a rush on out there, and it is my job to get among it!
If I wonder about my work, something serious is lost in the process. As it swirls down the InSinkErator plughole, the pagan rush cycle (ever so thinly veiled in its latest Christian disguise) seems to be sucking away a wonder of a far greater kind.