Change Is Your Friend ~ BitterSweetLife

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Change Is Your Friend

It Is Better To Learn Without Exploding

As part of my "Pastoral Care & Counseling" class, I'm researching the factors that cause pastors to burst into flame and turn to ash. There's all kinds of data and theory concerning the various ways ministers find to disintegrate. Some of the ideas are very Freudian and strange. They have to do with natural grandiosity and archaic narcissism. Others are more straightforward and tell you, basically, to spend more time playing basketball.

A fascinating aspect of the theorizing is when the various writers consider the university scene through the lens of stress and burnout. Mostly, the authors agree that when you walk through the doors of a seminary, stress starts rolling out of your pores, and it will likely continue once you leave...unless you view change as a challenge or opportunity instead of a threat to your life. I was happy to hear this, because I generally view change as leading to that extra cup of coffee. Lindsay, on the other hand, might view change as leading to more loads of coin-operated laundry, a perspective that might jeopardize her long-term calmness. I made a mental note to remind Lindsay that change can be used for things besides laundry.

Another thought-provoking topic hinged on what various stress-busting authors think universities should do to combat the burnout that is apparently inherent to pursuing higher education. One writer suggests that the "transitional stress" that students feel should be tapped into immediately, and used for good, say in Theology or Old Testament survey classes. For example, the OT professor could discuss the transitional stress that the Israelites must have felt when they left Egypt, and point out that this Exodus was actually a ramp for enhanced opportunities--although, from what the Bible says, it was also a threat to their lives. (Perhaps the professor would downplay the danger of dying in the wilderness, or at least save it for the second semester.) Students would then be encouraged to do theology by applying it to their felt needs.

I liked the sound of this, since integration is an ever-present challenge in education. What I like about integrating various disciplines with real life is that it takes helpful knowledge and transforms it into burnable fuel. So to speak. Integration also can be wildly creative, transcending mere outlines and highlighters, which I'm also a fan of. Integration can help you grow, not just memorize. I like growing.

I'm not so sure my seminary has tapped in to the creative, integrative side of education, though. I think we favor the approach where large planks are positioned above the students' ears, exerting massive leverage, cramming knowledge into the brain. If the student experiences discomfort, he is encouraged to cling to the planks. I wish my school was a little more intuitive in their approach to learning. But we can't all be forward-thinking.

For now, I'm just continuing to remind myself that change is good, and that I can't afford to let my hoops skills decline. I'll save the natural grandiosity theory for when things get really bad. And if my full-court game continues to be good (thus eradicating "transitional stress"), that day may never come.

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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife