Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding line, and no way of knowing how near the harbour was. "Light! Give me light!" was the wordless cry of my soul, and The light of love shone on me in that very hour.- Helen Keller
At times, since beginning my Doctorate in Ministry studies at McCormick Theological Seminary, I have asked myself; "what was I thinking?" This of course, always comes at a time when a paper is due or another five or six books need to be read. When stress is at its max, second guessing is also very nearby and doubt and insecurity ready to pay me visits. Studying while keeping up with the day to day life of being a parish priest is not easy. Thankfully I am in a very supportive parish with supportive lay leadership who has encouraged me to continue the pursuit of learning. I am grateful for the parish understanding that I will be on courses for three one week periods over a three year program. I am so pleased at the understanding and support of those who have been patient with me when things are hectic with studies. I am fortunate to be ministering alongside people who ‘get it.’ I should also note here that the studies themselves have resulted in a few parish events and discussions that many have also participated in. The people of this church are playing a vital role in my current course of study.
Thankfully, because of all of that support, those moments of despair are just passing moments. I usually hearken back to the words of Helen Keller and remember that the general pursuit of education is a great cry, “Light! Give me light!” I cannot begin to explain how many worlds have been opened to me because of education. Some view education in a utilitarian manner. “What will you be able to do with your education? Can you get better paid if you complete this degree? What are you going to do with your degree?" I do not see education this way at all. To pursue knowledge is to pursue more learning. I love the image of a boat drifting in the fog that Helen Keller used. Education is the compass, and the sounding line. It is not the ship itself, not the captain, the wheel, nor the rudder. Education is the navigational tool. It is not, as the more utilitarian among us suggest, a bundle of knowledge that can fill a vacant space. Education instead gives a person the courage to ask questions…sometimes very difficult questions? It encourages the learner to declare, “I don’t know. Where might I find out?”
Education is like this: when faced with a bank of fog one reaches for compass and sounding line. We take our bearings and sometimes what we offer is ‘our best guess’ on where where the safe harbour is. As the fog lifts and the day clears we discover that sometimes our guess is pretty good and sometimes we may have been off course. Whether our guess was right or wrong, we take counsel knowing that we have laid hold of the tools that God has placed before us to help navigate that fog as best we could given the situation we are placed in. That is ‘the Light of Love’ that Keller refers to. It is the Light of the one who gives all knowledge, and all wisom, and all understanding. We call upon God to give us light, and God calls upon us to throw on the switch. I am grateful for the opportunities provided by my present DMin studies to search the room for the switch!
We should all seek education, in hopes of embracing learning. We seek education in the hope that we will always hunger to ask the necessary questions, think outside the box, and to move forward using that which God has given us. Not all can attend university, or college. But we can all strive to be educated and to learn. Measure where you are today and set a goal for where you might be tomorrow. Take a seminar, read a book, do an online course, correspondence, join a book club, join a study group, join a bible study…write something…take some time and used the knowedge that you have to teach a class…you get the picture. It is never too late to educate! You are never too old to learn.
My quest continues. I want to be able to ask better questions. God is found in the moment of deepest questioning. So I pray to find new and diverse ways to explore who I am and who we are as a people. I feel badly for those who feel they have all the answers already and who know enough already. They have no need for compass or sounding line when they journey…But I wonder how frightening it must be for them when the fog rolls in?