It’s 4:40am and I write from what has become my usual Edinburgh airport terminal coffee shop table. I am bound for a Christmas-break travel stint through Eastern Europe visiting a number of friends and places I’ve been before (and a couple that I haven’t been yet).
The past three months have positively flown by (either that or my perpetual untimeliness in writing new blog posts strikes again). Already, classes for the 2018 fall semester at the University of Edinburgh have drawn to a close and the student body is, as one organism, feverishly completing final assignments and studying for exams. I turned in another final paper yesterday and now only have one more paper to complete, which isn’t due until the middle of January. The past week has been a much-needed decrease in daily schedule obligations, and I look forward to the next couple weeks and their promised hiatus from routine responsibilities.
A view of the castle that crowns the highest point of Edinburgh.
Naturally, the end of anything is a good opportunity to reflect on it. This past semester has been marked with a lot of learning — and not just because I’ve been immersed in an academic setting. Here are a few thoughts on what I’ve been learning here in Edinburgh (some of these lessons are continuations of ones I’ve been learning through the entirety of 2018 — being December, I think they make appropriate year-end fodder).
Lesson One: Peace is a real thing
I remember being prayed for during my undergrad years and the person praying for me asking God earnestly that I might find peace. I thought in that moment, “There’s no way. I’ve never felt that before.” Throughout the following several years I can attest to feeling lots of things and not much peace most of the time. However, over this past year, I’ve begun to taste what true peace feels like and have even felt it over sustained periods of time here and there. I can’t point to some magic bullet or formula. The only reason I believe I’ve been able to start existing in a state of peace more than a state of frustration or worry has been truly choosing to believe that a) God really is in control, and b) that’s how I want it. I’ve begun to experience what it’s like to feel comfortable and confident in my place in the passenger seat. This doesn’t mean that I sit back and let life happen to me — I still believe that we are responsible for, and gifted with the opportunity to, work towards goals and pursue opportunities. It simply means that the pressure is off — whatever happens is ultimately in the hands of Someone with a much better view and plan than me. Moral: If you want to spend more of your conscious existence in a state of not-stress, start asking God to help you turn over more control to Him. Little by little, He will do it and you’ll get to experience the peace that results. I dare you. Just try it.
Lesson Two: People are geometric
During a few significant conversations in which I’ve recently had the pleasure of playing a part, I have sampled a taste of just how much the perceptions, valuesets, expectations, frameworks, and precedents we each carry around vary from person to person and how comprehensively they frame the way we engage with each other as human beings. I am beginning to realize how each of us interact with each other not just by sharing content on a level plane. Conversations may appear at first glance to simply compare and contrast ideas, opinions, news, and musings. However, below the surface, our interactions involve geometric collisions of entire constructs and paradigms. Sometimes they fit together well and make for chemistry and cohesion; sometimes they crash into each other like icebergs and cause damage; sometimes they miss completely like comets passing each other lightyears apart. It made me realize how vastly differently we each see, understand, and interact with the world. Moral: When in doubt, extend grace and exist in humility. Always always always. Whether I’m frustrated, confused, annoyed, or perplexed by someone, I want that to be my default. When in doubt: more grace, more humility.
Lesson Three: Prepare for your limits
I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying when I’m feeling drained and need to recharge. What has proved more difficult is knowing tried-and-true remedies to help me bounce back. I’ve had to be more intentional these last months about identifying what activities and types of rest I make sure I include in my discretionary time to keep me ready for the energy demanded by a typical week, most notably the (introvert alert) people interaction I’d like to do well and am much less able to do well when I’m tired or depleted. Moral: If you start to pay attention to a) what indicators will predict imminent depletion/crabbiness and b) what things you can schedule in or make sure you do to recharge, you and everyone around you will be happier.
Lesson Four: God is love (no kidding)
Yep. God is love. Classic Sunday school adage. But this extends a line of reasoning I’ve been thinking about this past year. If God is love, then when I look at examples of things God did that do not fit my understanding of love, it’s not the belief “God is love” that should be called into question but rather my perceptions of what love is. In other words, as I wrestle with things I don’t understand, I’d rather put my finite understanding under scrutiny than truths professed in Scripture. I’d rather trust in a greater authority than my understanding. Are there things I don’t understand in Scripture? Absolutely. Do I wrestle with my understanding of God and His character? All the time. But the pursuit of greater understanding doesn’t necessitate scepticism in the meantime. Moral: Instead of defaulting to distrust of God or keeping Him at arms’ length while I decide if He’s trustworthy, which is how I historically reacted to Biblical professions and narratives I can’t reconcile with my understanding, I want to stand on Biblical truth and let my understanding catch up rather than the other way around.
Nearly time to go. Many other lessons have been learned this past semester — I’m still stubborn; rain guards are a necessary accessory on a bike in Scotland; and expect correspondence about anything official to take forever in the UK. But expounding on those may happen in another post.
One last thing I’ve been learning is how ready I am to settle into a longer-term role for my next step. Several people have asked me over the past weeks what I anticipate for next year and, assuming God opens a door, I am excited to get back into a coaching role. I will be looking for a basketball coaching position either here in Europe or in the States. We’ll see what opportunity ends up opening but whatever and wherever it may be, I’m asking God for something challenging I can sink my teeth into and where I can get to work provoking change. I’m excited for that prospect and asking God to point me in the right direction.
That’s all from me for now. On to Eastern Europe.