Last week, after I tucked my boys in bed Tuesday night, I clicked the “take quiz” button to start my Greek final and felt queasy when the details at the top told me there were 200 possible points and only 14 questions on the exam. The entire twenty weeks that we’ve sprinted through Greek I’ve been glad that I haven’t monitored my blood pressure when it was time to take the weekly quiz. Greek is fascinating. Studying it has changed my appreciation for the Bible. Moving this quickly through the work for a grade has been stressful.
Halfway through this second quarter of Greek, I started the midterm and realized only a few minutes into the test that I could have studied a little bit harder before taking it. We had been camping that week, and while I tried to be a diligent student, I knew that I had not studied as much as I would have if we were home. As panic swelled up inside me, I paused and had a little discussion with myself at my desk.
I’m not just here for a grade. Actually no one is going to ask me about my grades in seminary. I want to do good work but I also want to live well and sometimes that means camping with my family and getting a lower grade on a midterm. This grade is not an evaluation of myself as a person, only my mastery of memorization. This grade does not indicate what I can do with Greek for the rest of my life. This grade is a measurement of growth that exceeds the measurement tool. I have committed to taking this class because I want to learn Greek and I can learn Greek regardless of this test grade.
I took a deep breath and continued the test.
I came to seminary to learn, of course. I want to learn theology and church history and homiletics. I also came for the personal formation: the growth that comes from working with others and writing about what I’ve read and hearing different viewpoints. But there’s also a lot of formation happening just in navigating my way through seminary. Being forced to look at my motives helps me peel off my pride. The internal examination confronts this pressure to excel or prove myself.
Making the decision every day to copy paradigms or bike with my boys, to prepare for teaching the teens on Wednesday night or review vocab is constant work on how I need to spend my time. In the options of good, what is currently best. How do I decide that and how do I not expect the answer to be the same every time? Greek especially has been practice in that skill.
I want seminary to be a firm foundation under my feet; I don’t want to bow at its altar, worshipping grades and performance. Remembering that sometimes requires a little pep talk during exams.
p.s. Greek ended well. I truly love it and I have started a tiny, manageable plan to continue growing (or at least not lose!) my Greek skills. I know 80-year-old me is going to love that but me-in-the-fall is going to love it too when I take an exegesis class with a Greek text.