For most college students we are now into at least two or three in to the fall semester. Suddenly all the excitement of a new year, fun activities, and meeting new people meets the realities of reading, projects, papers and exams. This week I ran into a number of students on my campus that said they either just completed their first exam or were anticipating the first one over the next week. “Oh yeah, I guess I came to college to learn something!” This learning something however can be kind of confusing: Am I here to memorize definitions and facts? Am I to learn through readings that sometimes seem long and boring? Is my education all class lectures supported by a large coffee or latte?
Often I hear a student ask the question of another, “Did you study for the test?” The timing of the question makes a real difference in terms of what the question implies. Sometimes it is asked two days before the test with the implication, “we really need to study for this.” Other times I hear the question asked as students are entering the class on exam day with the nuance, “did you actually study for this, because I didn’t, at least not like I should have.” Still other times the question is asked as students are leaving the room with the meaning, “Wow, I guess I did not know anything on that exam, I hope that I am not the only one who bombed that one.”
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul says to Timothy, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:15) In the old King James translation, “work hard” is translated, “study.” Newer translations use terms like, “work hard,” “do your best,” or “make every effort.” The link in meaning with all these different terms is that there is personal effort that needs to be given for real learning and preparation for life to be accomplished.
Though it may seem like it would be wonderful to plug a thumb drive in my head so I could perform well at any moment and answer any question that might show up, at the end of it all, what would this “education” add to our lives. Learning that matters, education the gives meaning, perspective, and growth will always take personal effort.
Often we want “learning” and growth to be easy, whether it be in the college class or in following and becoming more like Jesus in our perspectives, attitudes, and actions. We want a simple answer sheet that takes 10 minutes to study with all the answers to spew back without any thoughtfulness at all. We want results with a simple prayer, “God change me. Make me new and different.” The reality is though; all personal growth and learning will take real, intentional effort.
So, two or three weeks into the semester: study, do your best, make every effort! This will make for a valuable and meaningful semester. And, in your journey to follow Christ, to be more like him; to love more like him: study, do your best, and make every effort joining with others on journey as we become all he has called us to be.