Critical Junctures for Navigating the University

The spiritual sojourn of the aspiring scholar is, like all spiritual sojourns, unique unto itself.  Knowing the spiritual geography and topography of the road ahead–the peaks and valleys, the steep inclines, the potential pitfalls, the rocky and dry places, the dead ends, and the oases–can mean the difference between flourishing and wilting while en route.

Growth in the life of the Spirit takes patience, attention, deliberateness and discipline.  In other words, it takes practice.  To this end, I have provided below a road-map of the critical junctures that grad students and young faculty will traverse as they follow Christ in the university which identifies the specific issues in spiritual formation which generally accompany those junctures and some suggested spiritual disciplines which can help you along your way.  I have embedded in the chart links to resources that might prove helpful as well.

Grace and Peace.

Academic Event

Issue in Spiritual Formation

Helpful Spiritual Disciplines

Adjusting to graduate-level workload. Establishing and adjusting rhythms of work, rest, and Sabbath. · Sabbath.
· Setting boundaries on work.
· Periodic retreats.
Isolation and loneliness. Finding and choosing community. · Prayer partnerships.
· Small groups.
· Discipline groups.
· Giving of time and resources.
Recognizing cognitive dissonance between dominant ideas in your field and your understanding of the Christian faith. · Understanding the relationshipof doubt, faith, and unbelief
· Choosing among bifurcation,outright rejection of academicdiscipline or faith, andintegration.
· Discipline groups.
· Inductive Bible study.
·Reading of theology and integrativeChristian works.
· Mentoring and spiritual direction.
Awareness of hostility toward—or indifference to—God in the Academy. Acknowledging and believing in the presence and providence of God in one’s work. · Praying the divine office.
· Prayer walking.
· Journaling.
Encountering arrogance, competition, and politics. By which rules will one “play the game”? · Intercessory prayer.
· Acts of service.
· Biblical reflection on “servant” passages
Preparing for major exams (general, qualifying, or comprehensive). · What is the source of myidentity and hope?
· Anxiety versus trust.
· Supplicatory prayer.
· Learning to be served by others.
Failure or rejection (qualifiers, positions, articles, tenure). · Identity (false self/true self).
· Sense of purpose or meaning.
· Grieving loss.
· Relinquishing false self, embracing trueself through confession.
· Self-examination, detachment,discernment.
· Spiritual direction and submission.
“Heavy lifting” phase of dissertation research and writing. · Loving God with one’s mind.
· Structuring one’s time andefforts.
· Figuring out new patterns ofproductive work and renewingrest.
· Dealing with fears of failure.
· Dissertation support groups.
· Praying the divine office.
· Meditative reading of Scripture (notintensive Bible study).
· Sabbath.
Dissertation defense, interviews, post-docs, job offers. · Discerning God’s leading.
· Assessing one’s motives.
· Dissertation support groups.
· Counsel of friends.
· Mentoring.
Publishing and grant-raising necessary for tenure and promotion. · Living by faith rather thananxiety.
· Renewed identity concerns.
· Faculty prayer and support groups.
· Faculty mentors.
· Prayer and meditation on biblicalpromises.
Balancing teaching, research, and departmental service within the larger context of one’s calling and place in life. Establishing and adjusting rhythms of work and rest. · Sabbath.
· Boundaries on work.
· Non-negotiable commitments toworship and family life.
· “Tithing” of time.
· Faculty support groups and mentors.
Figuring out how to be “salt and light” in one’s immediate setting and academic discipline. Discerning how God is working through one’s life, gifts, temperament, and personality. · Faculty prayer and support groups.
· Gift, temperament, and witness-styleTools.
· Journaling.
· Writing a “mission statement.”

Compiled by Bob Trube, 2008 and reproduced with permission.

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