I just turned in my final summer assignment- a 2500 word exegesis of Ephesians 2:1-10 from the original Greek. At my Seminary, M.Div. students are required to pass three semesters of study in Biblical Greek.
My first two Greek courses were taken over seven years ago, when I was a student in another program. At that time, I was doing very well in most of my Seminary courses. I was not, however, doing well in the rest of my life. God still had a lot of work to do in me. My life was not manageable. My marriage was troubled. I had horrible coping skills. I suffered from panic attacks and addictive behaviors. My finances were not well managed. I was a mess.
On the surface everything looked good. I got good grades in Seminary. I was very good at looking like I had it all together. My insides though- they were a different story. I had very little of the peace that I knew followers of Jesus were supposed to have. I was afraid a lot of the time. I was managing to keep that at bay—-until Greek.
Greek required me to study in a different way. I had to set aside a lot of time for vocabulary drills and memorization. Writing papers, taking essay exams and doing large amounts of reading comes very easy to me. Until Greek, all of my Seminary work was right in my wheelhouse. Not Greek. I had to come WAY out of my comfort zone and try to do something that was not natural- like learn a whole new alphabet. I don’t like that. I usually stay away from things that I am not naturally good at. Like math. Like auto repair. Like team sports.
All of my life I have done this. As soon as I am challenged to do something that is hard for me- I want to give up. As a child, I quit ballet, gymnastics, and guitar lessons because all of those things required me to practice. I don’t like to practice. I just like to pick something up and do it well. In High School, I took the honors History and English classes and stayed away from Math and Science. I actually managed to graduate from college without ever taking a college Math class.
Greek, however, was not going away. I could not quit. I had to pass in order to graduate with the M.Div.- and I wanted that M.Div. more than I have ever wanted anything in my life. Not for the accolades. Not to be able to put those letters after my name. The denomination I was in at the time required it for ordination. Without that degree, I would not be able to pursue vocational ministry in the church. Dropping out was not an option.
I buckled down as best I could but seven years ago I was seriously compromised. I passed with a “C” but those “C’s” haunted me. Barely getting by was not my academic style. Years later-after dropping out of my first Seminary program to heal and address the personal and emotional issues that were keeping me from the peace of Christ- I entered into a new Seminary program.
After determining that I would still need to take that third Greek class I had avoided in the first program, I continued to avoid it in the new program. (Yes- I was better- but I am still a work in progress!!)
Until seven weeks ago.
That was when I could no longer run. I had to take the class in order to graduate. I was coming up on my last few classes. Avoiding Greek was no longer an option. This time, however, I was in a very different situation than seven years ago. I was healed of many of my emotional and personal demons from the past. My marriage was strong. My life was manageable. I no longer suffered from panic attacks. I no longer self-medicated my anxiety with addictive behaviors. I was strong in my faith. I had serenity. I experienced the peace of Christ that passes all understanding on a regular basis. I no longer was trying to present a perfect picture of togetherness to the people around me. I was honest with God, myself and others about my brokenness.
I was still scared though. What if it was as hard as the last time? I had saved some of my old Greek exams. Some of them actually had “F”‘s on them. What if that happened again?
You know what? It didn’t. I had lots of help. Lots of prayer support. A job that allowed me to take large amounts of time off to study. A spiritually strong husband who supported my dream to graduate from Seminary and pursue vocational ministry. Pastoral mentors who loaned me some necessary study materials……
God had also taught me a very valuable lesson since my almost failure of seven years ago……
The hard stuff? The uncomfortable stuff? The stuff we don’t want to practice? The trips outside of our comfort zones?
THAT is the stuff that God uses to grow and stretch us. That is the stuff that we learn from. That is the stuff that causes us to lean into God and ask Him for help. That is the stuff that keeps us humble- praying on our knees. The hard stuff??? Is actually the good stuff.
I would like to tell you that my second chance at Greek was a breeze. It wasn’t. I still had to work really hard. I still had to study in ways that don’t come naturally to me. I still wanted to quit on some days. But I didn’t. I persevered. And I actually did well. I actually found myself enjoying the experience of reading the same words that the writers of Scripture used over two thousand years ago. I am no longer afraid of Greek. I now know that I can use my Greek to help me gain a better knowledge of Scripture and that, in turn, I will be able to help others gain a deeper understanding.
God gave me a second chance with Greek. Because He is a God of second chances. And third chances. And many, many more chances. He will never give up on me. He wants me to live a life of abundance and joy. Sometimes that will require hard work on my part. Sometimes it will require me to come out of my comfort zone. I can trust that He will be there- no matter what. He is preparing me.
Conquering Greek was about so much more than actually conquering Greek. For me, it was about trusting God’s plan for me and listening to Him. It was about understanding that- even though He may ask me to do hard things sometimes- it is always for my own good- and often, also for the good of His Kingdom.