Seminary Notes 8: Embracing limits
I accidentally took a full load of classes this past quarter. I registered for Women in Church History and Theology and was promptly waitlisted so I signed up for two other classes and did not give it another thought. Until the Friday before classes started. That afternoon, I got an email saying that I was now registered for Women in Church history and Theology. I was thrilled and debated what to do for a few minutes. I didn’t want to drop either of my other classes because I had already bought books and prepped due dates but I also didn’t want to miss this opportunity. My husband gently reminded me that I could try to take all three and drop one if it was an unsustainable load.
So I took three classes. It was a squeeze. It was doable but at the level where it was also annoying. I had to carefully block out my time and I said “no” to so many things so that I could complete my work. I had a conversation with a friend of mine who works and I laughingly pointed out that my background as a stay-at-home mom was showing. Staying home with children, and even homeschooling in my experience, is a lot of work but it’s also very flexible. She said she went through the same thing when she went back to work a few years ago.
I sat down shortly into the quarter and outlined the work that was mine to do for those months. It was a short list that included, of course, classes, but also my email newsletter and discipling two women that I knew from Kentucky. That list was my litmus test. If it wasn’t on the list, it got a “no” even if I really wanted to do it.
Lately, I’ve been reminding my boys that we can’t do everything. If we choose to play with Legos that means we aren’t spending that time doing art. If we watch a movie, we aren’t outside playing basketball. We have limits. We have to make choices between good options sometimes. It’s painful to hit our limits but if we learn to live in them, we live well. Limits make us stronger.
When I stepped back into Instagram after taking a few months off this fall, it was with limits. I have roughly four things that I talk about on Instagram: books, seminary, women and the Bible, and being a disciple. (Yes, that last category is a little vaguer than the others. Oh well.) Those limits free up so much mental space. I don’t worry if I should talk about certain things. I don’t debate what to post. I don’t feel pressured to share all of my life there.
Knowing that seminary was my priority freed me up too. Suddenly, I was sharply aware that many things needed a “no” from me right now. Deciding priorities in advance, while remaining flexible for how the Spirit moves, makes many decisions much easier. My seminary work set limits on everything else.
Diving deep into studying and taking time off Instagram also reminded me that it’s ok if my world seems small. I’m only one person. It’s not my job to fix the world or change the church or rescue everyone. It’s my job to be faithful where I am. Perhaps everyone doesn’t need that reminder. They need the reminder that their world is bigger than they could imagine; that kingdom impact multiplies from their life. That’s true as well, but personally, I needed a different reminder.
I won’t be in school forever. I know that although seminary seems to stretch before me endlessly. But for this season, it does matter that I do this work. It is changing who I am now and it changes how I will live later. A “no” now doesn’t mean a “no” forever. But that “no” now is also a “yes” to the work that I have to do.
Every season will have limits. It’s my job to submit to those limits. I can hold dreams for something else in the future and still fully live where I am.
Also, God works in those “accidents.” I probably wouldn’t have decided to try three classes on my own, but here I am again, starting the winter quarter on Monday and doing it again.