Winter Issue 3
Burning Out, and Learning to Rest in Grace
By Rob Collis
“Can you take a semester off?” The idea had never occurred to me. I had been a full-time student for eight years straight; it had never crossed my mind that I might do otherwise. But as soon as my pastor asked that small little question, my heart leapt within me. The idea of a break from studies felt like a breath of fresh air.
I had burned out back in April. In hindsight, I think I had it coming. There were a lot of factors, from eight straight years of full-time university, writing for an essay competition, working in a church, working as a TA, processing grief from the year before, among plenty of others. I was spent and depleted, and spent most of that summer in a depression. Frankly, I hadn’t recovered by the time August rolled around; I had never felt so unenthusiastic and unexcited to go back to school. And so my pastor asked me, “Can you take a semester off?” And instantly within me, I knew the answer needed to be yes.
For immigration and ordination purposes, I still needed to take one class last semester. My Anglican Life class with Bishop Ron Ferris was a refreshing change of pace from most of my previous Regent classes. There were only seven of us in the classroom, and while delving into the world of liturgics felt like opening Pandora’s Box, it was one of the most refreshing and enjoyable classroom experiences I’ve ever had.
Lately I’ve talked with a number of other MDiv students who have either recently graduated or who have been in the program for a while. I’ve been troubled by how many others have expressed to me that they, too, either burned out or nearly burned out towards the end of their studies. Anecdotally, at least, it almost seems like we are being habituated through our academic studies to embody a pace of life that risks setting us up to fail once we enter into the pastorate. I had felt full of trepidation about taking a break; a degree of shame and humiliation that I couldn’t sustain a pace to finish my MDiv in the timeline I wanted. But I’ve learned that there’s nothing shameful about slowing down and seeking help—in fact, it probably numbers among the best decisions I’ve ever made, and those friends who have also slowed down and taken a break have frequently expressed similar sentiments.
During my break last semester, I was encouraged to read Christopher Ash’s little book Zeal Without Burnout. Enthralled by the hope that, fueled by God’s grace, it actually can be possible to be zealous without burning out, I found myself convicted by my pride, and how it keeps me from being able to receive and rest in God’s grace. I was told something similar almost a year ago in my Church Leader Inventory debrief by Dr. Tom Wood; turns out I still struggle with works-righteousness. It’s been strange for me to realise how the lie of works-righteousness isn’t confined to vivification. Indeed, I have often sought to earn and prove God’s love in the midst of my sanctification—by being a good student, an effective church intern, etc. Too often I fail to actually trust God; I trust in myself instead. It hasn’t always been obvious, but it’s undeniably true. And when I trust in myself, I cannot trust and rest in grace.
I’m rather nervous about being a full-time student again this semester. For immigration reasons, I need to take a full-time course load; I can’t say that I’m thrilled about it. But I do feel excited for my classes this semester—which is a big change from last August. I still catch myself trying to list my accomplishments and achievements from last semester to try and justify the validity of my break—and I did quite a lot, although I’m not sure if it was always helpful. But trying to justify my achievements and productivity in the midst of a break belies the point of taking a break. I know that I did rest; my brain no longer feels enshrouded by a cloudy fuzz. My concentration and excitement is coming back. But more importantly, I’m seeing more of my own sin and experiencing more of God’s grace.
The researcher Silvia Bellezza has pointed out how North American society tends to signal our sense of status and self-worth through our busyness and lack of leisure. I didn’t just need to take a break to recover from my burnout; I needed to take a break to begin to break free from the lie that my value and worth could ever be found in my productivity. My identity is found in my adoption into the family of God; not in how much I can do. His grace is enough, and his power is perfected in my weakness.
My timeline to finish my degree has shifted again—it’s happened a few times now. My aspiration to finish an MDiv in three years has now settled upon a four-and-a-half year pace. And as I look toward my final twelve months at Regent, I feel overwhelmed with how much I still have yet to do. It’s not just the courses, although they will be a lot, but I have to make some really big decisions this year—most prominently: What happens next? I have a few hopes and wishes, but I’m not really sure. I know that I’m entering into a season of waiting and discernment, and with the words of Psalm 27 ringing through my head—“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”—I take comfort in having been able to rest for the last few months. I’m grateful that I am not entering into this season spent and depleted; rather I’m entering into it having learned just a little bit more about how to rest in grace.
Lost in the Library
By Alex Strohschein
It is easy to get lost in the Allison Library, not in the sense that the stacks are a labyrinthine maze, but in the sense that there is a wonderful array of books that are available for patrons to peruse and use. I cannot count how many times I have been walking down one of the aisles and my eyes glance upon a title that piques my curiosity, prompting me to pick it up and take a look (one such time was when I found the oddly and intriguingly-titled book “‘My Brother Esau is a Hairy Man’: Hair and Identity in Ancient Israel” by Susan Niditch).
Sometimes patrons get lost in wonder, but sometimes books simply get LOST. This is most often due to incorrect shelving. Those of us who work in the library encounter situations where a book has been re-shelved in the entirely wrong spot; for example, a book which begins with a B classification in its call number (say B45. S3 2011) is found among books starting with P. Another common example is when a call number has a decimal after it—a book with a call number BT 111.2 might be shelved alongside books with the call number BT 111.3.
Patrons will come to the circulation desk searching for a book that is listed as “Available” on the library’s catalogue but they are unable to locate it where it is supposed to be. Think about how niche of a topic “hair” and “ancient Israel” is, if “‘My Brother Esau is a Hairy Man’” is shelved in the wrong place, a student hoping to write a research paper on hair in ancient Israel might have to change paper topics because Niditch’s book is the best study available on that topic (not to mention the book’s bibliography, which can be mined for other sources). Although we do perform searches on lost books within the library, this is a tedious process and by the time the book is found, the patron requesting it typically no longer needs it. Unfortunately, sometimes a book may be lost entirely which results in the library having to re-purchase a book we already own rather than using that money to purchase new books we do not yet have in our collection.
Many of our patrons want to be helpful, thinking that if they re-shelve the book they were looking at themselves, this saves the circulation clerks from having to do it. Unfortunately, it is this eagerness to be helpful that most often leads to our books being re-shelved in the wrong places. The best thing patrons can do is to return the books they are using to the “Book Re-shelving” bins located around the library so that the circulation clerks can collect them and properly re-shelve them where they belong so that they can easily be found when needed.
The Boy Who Cried "Wolf"
By Mary Beth Lascurain
Hermenuetic of a Crossword
In a simple crossword, the plain reading of the text provides a synonym for the answer, such as ‘Puzzle’ = CROSSWORD. However, for a real cerebral workout, one needs a cryptic crossword, in which the answer is hidden in the clue by word plays, anagrams, puns, riddles or other devices. The letters for an anagram are the ‘anagrist’ and the indicator of an anagram is the ‘anagrind.’ So, for example:
• Angry (cross) writing (word) on the back-page of etcetera = CROSSWORD
• Sermon (word) about the crucifixion (cross) was a puzzle (definition) = CROSSWORD
• It is a puzzle (definition) how orc’s sword (anagrist) flashed (anagrind) = CROSSWORD
• Pastime (definition) for crowd Ross (anagrist) confused (anagrind) = CROSSWORD
The mark of a good clue is when there are layers of meaning, enough to bring a smile to the solver’s face. SCAR is an anagram of CARS, so “Reckless cars produce wound.” ‘Reckless’ indicates an anagram, and ‘cars’ supplies the letters. This works on several levels. But there are lots of other ways to give a clue, such as:
• Stigma (definition) caused by endless (take off the last letter) fright (SCARE)
• In the Oscars (hidden in oSCARs) there was a sign of injury (definition)
• Steve carried away Regent Principle’s (first letters of ) evidence of surgery (definition)
A little topical reference to current affairs is always welcome.
RODEO is an arena in which there are some different options for the setter:
• Competitive forum (definition) in which cowboy strode out
• Horse show (definition) in which English jammed rotating (anagrind) door (anagrist)
• Show (definition) cooking of (anagrind) Oreo digested first
ESSO might provide some fuel for fun:
• Actress overate becoming source of gas
• Energy supplier (definition) occupying peoples society
• From the East (reading backwards), boss expected inclusion of fuel supply (definition)
The definition is usually found in the first or last words, unless it is a riddle. Look for indicators of an anagram such as cooking, confused, flashed, rotating. See if there is a word spanning other words or contained within a word. Sometimes, if the setter is feeling really mean, then a reverse clue might be given, such as:
• No ion? (7,5)
• Night thing or friend finder? (7)
• Do infinite changes have meaning? (10)
See answers for these three below.
So there you are, if you want to CROSS SWORDS with a real CROSSWORD, there is no need for CROSS WORDS, just consider the clues, do some form criticism, textual analysis, grammatical deconstruction, parse the puns, arrange the anagrams and grace the grid with the solutions.
A wandering clot might lose bum dancing?
Answers to reverse clues:
No ion? (7,5) PICKLED ONION
Night thing or friend finder? (7) ANAGRAM
Do infinite changes have meaning? (10) DEFINITION
By Aubrey Pennington
I’ve seen a lot of words in this life that I’ve lived.
Lies, confessions, hate, love, and shit
Reverb races through me so hard,
As you drop words with enough power to be electrically charged.
I can’t keep your opinions out of the world’s ears,
And this election is the most painful that I’ve seen in years.
Words are my study, my hobby, my time …
I hate that I must swallow words that aren’t even mine.
You’re an answer to pain and you answer to pain,
And you inflict pain again and again,
But I’m a one-way street.
I’m only a witness to the words that I meet.
Please understand, I know better than you,
The effect of your words on the people you talk to.
Your words scale skylines and corporate ladders
They fortify a food chain.
Your words? They matter.
Written July 6, 2016 in the midst of the most recent U.S. presidential election.