So you want to be a scholar? You likely already are aware of the fact that you are going to be reading a lot and writing heavily footnoted academic papers while engaging in discussions about methodology while analyzing and assessing arguments. You’ve probably weighed the challenges to actually getting a job after you’ve finished graduate school and have a backup plan that includes having a spouse who is employable. These are all certainly great steps toward becoming a scholar.
But there are some things, rather unique, that no one will tell you that you need to be aware of, so I’ve taken the liberty to put together a little list:
You’ll be seen carrying a milk crate. What, in the world, would cause someone to be seen walking around with a milk crate? Simple: books. If you’re like me, you like to work at a variety of locations, including your home, your office, coffee shops, parks, and other places that inspire creativity. So how are you going to read through the books you engaging if they aren’t with you? Sure, you might be like me and have over 4,000 electronic books, but some of the best stuff has yet to go digital! So what are you going to do? You are going to find a milk crate, fill it with books, and carry it around with you. Why? Because you are a scholar.
You’ll drink lots of coffee. Some of you are well aware that in addition to dark beer and single malts, I love coffee. Fully adhering to Eph. 5: 18 and shaped by my arguments here, I don’t drink the former nearly as much as the latter. So this unexpected characteristic of scholars was welcomed. But there are some wannabe scholars who are unaware of why they would both want to and should drink more coffee. They may be wondering right now why this suddentlifestyle change. This video says it all:
You’ll be the subject of people’s pitty. “Oh, you’re 35 years old and still in grad school?” “Don’t you know that having a graduate degree won’t likely lead to a serious job or more money?” “Pastors don’t need theological education.” “I bet you wish you could afford _________.” Of these statements, I’ve heard every. single. one. Just get used to it. People will fill sorry for you because you “have” to read so many books and write papers. They obviously don’t realize that you, as a wanna be scholar, love books and likely have ideas floating around in your head that you want to get down on paper. So take the pitty, smile, nod your head, and laugh.
You’ll form strong relationships with unlikely people and those relationships will last and contribute to your sanity in ways you will, until doing scholarly work, not understand. Forgive me for getting a little sentimental here, but once you get into the schedule and disciplines required for scholarly work, you’ll face situations (timelines!), challenges (funding!), and more that most people won’t be able to relate to. So where will you turn to? Who will God use to help keep you going? You’ll likely develop deep relationships with unlikely people, often with other scholars who know well these situations and challenges. No one told me that in the midst of my scholarly work I’d become friends with people that I think I’ll always consider close.
You’ll get Amazon Prime. No matter what you think about electronic books, the Kindle, or ordering through the Internet, after you’ve been forced to purchase a few books (or perhaps some helpful technology such as an iPad or laptop), and you realize that you will end up paying an arm and a leg for shipping, you’ll break any and all rules that formerly kept you from getting Amazon Prime. Why? Two words: free shipping.
At the 2014 Society of Vineyard Scholars’ annual meeting, Dr. Craig Keener delivered a powerful message to the many scholars in attendance that acknowledged some of the challenges and what can only be described as the “unknowns” of the scholarly task. While my piece here is more tongue-in-cheek, I was profoundly impacted by seeing so many Vineyard scholars served well by Keener’s remarks. I think it’s important for people realize that scholars face challenges and just because they are often involved in higher level intellectual interaction (aka they know some stuff) doesn’t mean they couldn’t use your prayer and support.
- If you are a scholar, what would you add?
- What has been surprising to you?
- What’s gotten you through the situations and challenges?