Featured

“We found friends in a hopeless place” – The Grad Student Life

grouppic

This September, I entered my third year of Ph.D. studies. I can’t believe how that is happening! Time flies when you’re having fun … or so stressed out you no longer have the energy to mark the passage of time in the first place. There comes a point when I have lived from one paper to another. Writing furiously to finish one paper only to have enough time to start writing furiously for another paper. Deadlines rule my schedule. Sleep becomes a luxury. Amidst the busyness of life, it’s easy for the social life to go as well.

The problem is I’m an extravert. I need people. People give me energy. From time to time, I admit that I can go into hermit mode and lock myself away from people… but that’s not the ideal. Over the years, I have learned that I can’t allow myself to neglect the social aspect of life. It’s easy… so easy… but it is not the ideal path.

We are social creatures. We need each other. Community is very important. Oftentimes, it is when I don’t want to be with others that I realize how badly I need to be with others. It’s easy to get trapped in your own little world where you are the center of the universe. Being with others is a nice reminder that there is a world outside that is waiting to be explored and enjoyed. Life is better with other people.

This year, I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t lose sight of community. The Ph.D. life can be very lonely. You often work in isolation and let’s face it, no one really wants to talk to you about what your dissertation is all about. They ask out of politeness but attention spans are usually within the 1-2 minute range. If they’re listening after 5 minutes, give them a gold star! During Orientation Week, I got a chance to meet a lot of awesome students. It’s always fun meeting new people. Then, I felt bad because knowing my normal schedule, that might have been the last time I would be able to see them. Then, I remembered that I wasn’t going to let that happen this year. As a student, we don’t have a lot of time to spare. So what if we can kill two birds (the need to study and the need for community) with one stone?  That’s when I decided to start a study group!

Studying in a group is way better than studying alone. I would rather be distracted by a funny personal story than random YouTube videos. We’re all going to be distracted at some point. I’d rather be “distracted” by something a friend says than the hundred other stupid distractions I could have come up with by myself.

It has been a blast getting to know people within this new setting. They are so full of life and energy. There is laughter whenever we get together punctuated by the silence of trying to understand Hebrew verbs and that book that just doesn’t make sense to you. It’s great to be able to talk about theology one minute and good T.V. shows the next.

Seminary can be a very difficult place. Sometimes, it can even feel hopeless (especially when all your papers are due around the same time!)

I’m just glad I was able to find friends in a hopeless place.

Advertisements
Featured

When Worlds Collide: Doing Theology within a Community

johnchrysostom

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending the Pappas Patristic Institute’s summer program as a Teaching Fellow in training. We had the option of choosing from a number of available courses so I decided to go with “Theodore the Studite and post-Chalcedonian Christologies” (taught by Dr. Thomas Cattoi) and “The Problem of Evil in the Writings of the Fathers” (taught by Dr. David Goodin). It was a great experience of studying and examining the primary sources as a community of learners and students.

One of the difficulties of studying theology within a community is the problem of pride: We all think that we are right in our particular understanding of an author or their work. This type of attitude is not conducive to learning, much less practicing the art of humility. Doing theology within a community can become problematic because it forces us to realize that others’ interpretation may be in stark contrast against our own interpretation. There is a tendency to become incredibly defensive and sometimes, downright hostile in certain situations. Trust me. I know. I have seen it time and time again. “I am right and that’s all there is to it” becomes our primary exegetical tool. There is no room for diversity of thought nor is there room for multiple interpretations. The desire to maintain a level of orthodoxy becomes an excuse to display arrogance and condescension masked in “spiritual” form. Sometimes I wonder if it truly is the “zeal of the Lord” that consumes them or their “zeal to be in the right.” In the way they act, there surely isn’t a lot of godly attributes to be seen and heard.

Perhaps, that is one of the reasons why I really enjoyed my time as a Teaching Fellow in training. It was great to hear so many diverse opinions and interpretations as we delved deeply into the texts that were given to us. And by diverse, I don’t necessarily mean that they were so diametrically opposite from one another… there is diversity even in similarity. What others were saying was not necessarily any different from how I would interpret a certain passage. Instead, they highlighted a different facet, approached it in a different angle than what I am normally accustomed to doing. There is beauty in diversity. It doesn’t mean that the concepts of right and wrong are unnecessarily jettisoned as if they didn’t matter. It just means that we need to be open to understanding things in ways that may seem foreign to us. By doing this, it allows us to think and cogitate about what others are saying rather than reflexively shouting down their ideas.

This summer program also convicted me about the power of leadership in being able to transform others. Through the leadership of the Institute’s director, Dr. Bruce Beck, and the numerous teachers who taught the various courses, we were constantly reminded of the need to struggle with the texts and acquire an attitude of humility and a posture of learning. The teachers were reminded not to take a lecture approach. Instead, we were asked to “come and reason together” à la Isaiah 1:18. As a result, I have come away with a humble heart that is more willing to hear someone out rather than use Scriptural passages as a cudgel to drown out their voice.

Not bad for a week of learning.

Day 11 – The Lenten Journey of Sid

community

 

Today was a sick day. I didn’t do much all day. Needed to get my rest. Figured I might as well get caught up on Community. Such a funny show. Yet, also very real. Community can be fun but it can also be messy. We are all complex human beings. It’s so much easier to put everyone in the good and evil category. Sometimes, I wish it was that simple. We are all just a ball of hurt walking around, hoping that things will eventually work out sometimes. It’s just a reminder that I need to be nicer to others because I have no idea what they have gone through/are going through. I wasn’t able to go to church today (yah, I go to church on a Saturday… and a Sunday one too! lolz) But, found out that my pastor apparently made a reference to me. I sent him my paper and he talked about it from the pulpit. That’s pretty kewl!

Join me on this journey.

Day 8 – The Lenten Journey of Sid

pitchperfect

I just want to start by saying a big THANK YOU! to all my new followers. Honestly, I am super grateful that you have decided to follow me. My goal has always been for this website to be a safe, virtual place where people can learn from each other and share great ideas that can change the world. I would love to connect with you so don’t be shy and leave a comment! =)

Today I had dinner and watched Pitch Perfect with my friend, Steph. Man, I love that movie! I think this is my fourth or fifth time watching it. It’s sooo funny! Afterwards, somehow we got talking about church and community. I was just sharing how a lot of times, I have often felt community outside of church than in it. I felt community in my online community group (shout out to #usguys) as they saw and accepted me and acknowledged my giftings. I felt community in North Africa as my Muslim friends invited me over their house and shared meals with me. As we talked about it, it’s so hard to define what makes something feel like a community. Sometimes, it just seems so nebulous. Yet, it is something that you’ll know when you feel it. That’s the thing though, you can’t say if you satisfy premise a, b, and c, then you will achieve “community” status. It’s not static. It’s a dynamic, organic thing. Right now, I’m going to a church that I really like. I like the people. I like the pastor. I think the congregation is great. I interact with the people in the church. I chat with the pastor. But even then, I still feel like an outsider. It’s not that the church isn’t welcoming, it definitely is. People there are friendly. But do I feel like I’m a part of it, I would probably say no. Maybe, the concept of community can’t be defined, but only felt. I just find it sad that I never feel it among the people who are supposed to be the very embodiment of it. It’s not their fault. It’s not mine. Sometimes, it just is.

Join me on this journey.

Day 6 – The Lenten Journey of Sid

Woohoo! Today, I got the chance to see another friend whom I haven’t seen in a very long time. We went to a resto downtown and it’s so hard not to want what I can’t have.  I haven’t had a craving for some good old shepherd’s pie in a while. Of course, I would start having it when I’m not allowed to have it. I swear, the more something is forbidden, the more I want it. Even if I wouldn’t have it under normal circumstances. I remember when I lived in North Africa, I was soooo craving for KD (Kraft Dinner) and Spam. Two things I would barely touch in Canada somehow became the two things I yearned for the most. Maybe that’s why Adam and Eve wanted to eat the dang apple. God said don’t eat it so the normal human reaction is to go, hmmm… I think that would be really yummy! If they weren’t forbidden to eat it, I wonder if they would naturally go for it. Stupid human nature. Sigh.

Got a chance to discuss Rom. 1:1-15 with Dan today. We meet up once a week to just talk, encourage one another, and learn more about God and the Bible. It’s been great to see how our friendship is being deepened as we become more authentic and transparent with one another. The crazy thing about vulnerability is that it often leads to the very things we are looking for in the first place aka trust and feelings of belongingness. We live such individualistic lives and we long for community, only to look for it and never find it. So sometimes, instead of whining and complaining about not finding community, you have to create it.

Join me on this journey.

The importance of community

I think we live in a world where it’s so easy to feel alone and isolated. I have talked to so many friends who pretty much said this very thing. When they’re going through a really tough situation, or encounter personal problems, they feel like they can’t tell anybody about it. Not only that, but they feel like they’re the only ones who ever felt that way. Because they feel so uniquely special in that regard, they don’t reach out to others out of fear that what they’re going through is something alien to other human beings. To admit their problem is to admit their weirdness or their other-ness. “Normal people don’t feel like this,” is probably the thought that they tell themselves.

This is the farthest thing from reality. The reality is that people go through tough times. People can get angry. People can feel jealousy. People can be lonely. In fact, these are the very things that remind us of our shared humanity. Our very brokenness may be the very link that binds us to one another as human beings.

While I was doing a research on the topic of Sabbath for one of my papers, I came across an article where the author (who was a non-practicing Jew) decided to try the whole Sabbath thing. She mentioned that it was easier to not work on Sabbath when she was surrounded by others who also didn’t work on the Sabbath. By surrounding ourselves with like-minded and like-hearted people, difficult things can become slightly easier. The problem still remains, except now, you have a support system that you can lean on when the problem occurs.

And that’s what is so great about community. It allows people not only to be themselves, but find themselves. When we are surrounded by a group of people who can act as our buffer against the vitriolic waves of life, it allows us to be stronger and better than if we try to face it on our own. Sometimes, we have to find –  and sometimes we have to create – that community. I found a great online Twitter community in #usguys. I’m constantly amazed at how people in this online community show such trust, authenticity and care. Personally, I try to surround myself with a select group of like-minded and like-hearted friends who I can go to in times of need. Because of these people, I am better, stronger, and wiser.

An old proverb once said “it takes a village to raise a child.” Likewise, it takes a village to raise an adult.

and scene…