Richard and I left Charlotte the morning of July 31st sweaty, grumpy, and exhausted from two days of POD loading in ninety degree heat. Cars packed to the brim, four hundred miles of road stretched out in front of us. The trip was peppered with bathroom breaks, food stops, and one fantastic visit with old friends. At 9:15PM we finally pulled up in front of a two story house with the porch light on. It did not take long for my relief at arriving to slip into anxiety.
To be honest, I spent most of the first week worrying about one thing or another. As we unpacked I thought of all the things left in storage that I wish had made it into the car (we will be sharing a four-bedroom home with another couple until the on-campus apartments for students with families are completed). As we met my classmates I felt unprepared for seminary in comparison. As we sat through orientation I thought about how paying for the next three years seems impossible. As we heard the construction update I yearned for a move in date.
With the beginning of classes on August 8th I started to feel as though I had been dropped into a fast moving river. All VTS MDiv students are required to take an intensive course in Greek or Hebrew during August of their first year. I chose Greek. I’m glad I didn’t know exactly how “intensive” the class would be before we got here. The class moves so fast that each time we get our feet under us we are knocked over by the next lecture.
This image of being dropped in a rushing river has come to me often over the past few weeks. When it seems overwhelming to balance the academic demands and spending time with my new husband I think of the rocks that bump your backside as you speed down stream. When I sit staring at a Greek quiz with no idea how to translate the foreign sentence I think of the waves that smack your face as you go through rapids.
But I know from my countless trips with the River Adventure Program of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia that when your canoe flips, you get on your back with your feet pointing down stream, toes out of the water. You keep your head up, relax, paddle with your hands to avoid large objects, and wait until you wash out in calmer water.
What does this look like for a new seminarian with a little over a week left in Greek intensive? I am still figuring that out. But the idea of “enough” I came across when reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown has been floating to mind often (check out this great blog post for a recap). Brown suggests our lives could look very different if we change our internal narrative from scarcity to enough. When we come from a perspective of enough, “I am not smart enough to learn Greek” becomes “I have what I need to learn Greek” and “There is not enough time for everything I need to do today” becomes, “There will be enough time in this day for what needs to be accomplished.”
Day by day I am trying to live into enough. Just like life, rivers are uncertain. Each time you paddle a stretch of the river it looks slightly different. That is one of the amazing gifts of this part of God’s creation. One’s anxiety about what might be around the bend does nothing to prevent it from appearing or allow you to navigate it more successfully. And yet for many of us living into enough and managing anxiety is one of the ongoing struggles of life.
I am beyond grateful that I am not alone, I have the most amazing classmates who are rushing down river in the “lazy swimmer” position right beside me. I feel blessed to be surrounded by family and friends, new and old, who remind me daily in small and large ways that I am enough. That anxiety does not define me. That I will wash out in calmer water. Perhaps, with their help, I can relax enough to enjoy the ride.
Photo: Classmates During Orientation (photo credit: Maurice Dyer)