I haven’t written a “small success” post in quiet a while. In all honesty, I kind of forgot about them. I was reading through my Feedly RSS feed (another thing I haven’t done in a while) and saw another blogger’s “small success” post. I was so excited. And then I got even more excited when I realized it was Thursday. So, here I am, back in the small success saddle.
I (almost) hate to do this, but my small success isn’t very small at all – I GRADUATED! Yes, I did! As of May 31, I have a Masters of Theological Studies from Ave Maria University’s Institute of Pastoral Theology!! Can you believe it? I’m still in disbelief. I posted pics and a video of the big moment over at our family blog if you want to see. I really love the concept of reflecting on the small successes that I so often overlook in my daily life, but it would be impossible to look back on the past week and not rejoice over my graduation. Three long years have finally come to a gloriously triumphant close.
If I took my graduate school experience as a whole, I think the greatest “small success” that I achieved in my time as a student is learning to love God with my mind. We all know that we’re called to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind. (Mt 22:37) The heart and soul have never been a problem for me. Well…execution is often a problem for me. I fall and fail in loving God with my whole heart and soul many times a day. But the concept of loving God with my heart and soul makes sense to me. I understand how to do that. I always have. My mind is another story.
I never really stopped to think about it until I was immersed in this deep sea of intellectual information: history, philosophy, anthropology, laws, doctrine, documents. Somehow, despite being surrounding with what appeared on the surface to be just a bunch of facts and things to memorize, my heart was burning, longing for more. From my very first moment in the classroom, I became one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Lk 24) My entire graduate education became this three year long retreat* where I came to know God in a new and exciting way.
For the very first time, God wasn’t just a feel-good, heart thing for me. I was finally able to connect faith and reason and use them together, as they are intended to be. I’ve always been taught that faith and reason go hand in hand, but now I’ve actually experienced it. Now, I know what it means to love God with my mind. Because of this, I was really sad when I realized that graduation was quickly approaching. I didn’t want to loose this newfound intellectual relationship I had discovered with the Lord. Especially since I had realized that I had barely scratched the surface of all there is to learn about him. Now that I have graduated, I come away from my time as a student with a deep desire to further discover God with my mind, and the skills to know how to do so. Now comes the daily journey, on which I will often fall and fail, to love God daily with my whole mind, as I have finally learned to do.
* I have to admit, doing the assignments was far from retreat-like. I slaved and toiled and stressed and procrastinated and drove my family crazy. But, while I was in class, and even when I was on a roll with any particular assignment, it was very much retreat-like in that I was connecting with God in ways that were new and real for me. Just like those disciples heading to Emmaus, my heart was burning.