A few months ago I asked Jeff a hypothetical question. I asked how he would respond if someone, say, a mom wanted to know if it was a waste of education and displeasing to God to go to a good university and then become a stay-at-home mom, or if, in other words, there is no point in a woman getting quality higher education if she is planning on staying at home with children. For some reason he asked me if I was referring to myself (he always sees through my hypothetical questions!), and then answered by saying that he would say that he disagrees with the way the person sees education. He then went on to point out the ways that my education (from high school onward) has helped shape and equip me as his wife and helper, assured and comforted me of my calling, and got me starting to think about some of the things I’m about to write in this post.
- Education as a means toward a profession. The goal of learning is doing well and getting a GPA that will enable you to get up to the next step and ultimately land a good job. In Chinese culture the profession will grant security. In American culture, additionally it’s about self-fulfillment of your potential. This is the view that my mom vehemently responded against when adults who found out I wanted to do ministry wanted to know why I “needed to go to” Cornell for that. This is how I thought before, which is why I only thought of school as getting a degree and studying “for the grade” and not to learn (which, by the way, I regret)
- Education as a way to “better yourself” and make you a more knowledgeable, well-rounded, person. This is not so much what I’ve ever believed; I guess this is more of a view of education I’ve been exposed to through teachers and professors here in America.
Views I’ve been exposed to/held in Christian circles. These are the ones that have influenced me more-
- Education as a means to getting into a position of influence. The job that you land will enable you to make a difference in the world. The people that you hang out with at a good university will be able to influence large numbers of people later. The higher up you go, the more opportunity to make an impact for God through either sharing the Gospel with influential people or holding a position that is weighty.
- Education as means of having a specific time of being able to impact the people you study with and grow in God. It’s not so much about classes as it is about the environment of the university. Not focusing too much on your studies and making time for ministry is a way of training you to be willing to focus on the eternal things. It’s a time to impact non-believers and grow in God. It’s definitely not about the grade here and it’s not like classes don’t matter, but learning and education in and of itself isn’t really addressed or thought much about.
- Education as something to sacrifice in order to do full-time ministry. Implicit in this view is that education is meant to funnel you toward a vocation. Thus, if God calls, it is “given up” in order to take up the task of full-time vocational ministry.
- Education as a means to a profession that you will use as tentmaking. Having a job provides income to give toward God’s Kingdom as well as to free you up from being a burden to others as you do ministry. It may also be a profession that grants access to do missions overseas.
I’m sure there are more but these are the ones that have impacted me most probably because I’ve been immersed in them. I’m not saying that any of these are wrong, but having them listed out explains why I was wondering whether or not I would be pleasing God or wasting my education. These values don’t allow for a way that someone can go to university, get a degree, and then become a stay-at-home mom except in the case of the idea of it being a sacrifice, something given up for the sake of the calling to be a homemaker. I can’t help but feel that the way I’ve viewed education and heard it spoken about is incomplete. I know this because I know that Biblically, it is a noble calling to be a wife and mom and somehow I don’t think that just because someone wants to do that, their education is just a back-up plan or leading nowhere. I need a bigger picture, God-sized understanding of education. Here is an explanation for the purpose of education that I think may be more comprehensive (Okay, I kind of just typed it up right now on the spot because I realized I had not verbalized an alternative so I may have to change it later…and am open to resources that may explain this better!)
Education as a resource from God used to shape and equip me for whatever he has and will call me to for the sake of loving him and others with my heart, soul, and mind to his glory.
This doesn’t mean that I took whatever I learned in school as the truth or that my mind was shaped in the way my teachers or professors thought it ought to be shaped, but through high school, college, and beyond, God used different teachers and classes not only to teach information but to mold the way I process information, write down thoughts, learn new things, read, think, etc. Sometimes the classes helped toward this directly (classes at Westminster!), sometimes they were testing grounds in which I had to think critically to spot out deception and falsehood and learn to verbalize inconsistencies in arguments to share what I believed was true. If I see the wider picture of what my education afforded me with, alongside of a degree, practical skills toward a profession, etc. and also understand God is sovereignly orchestrating my whole life, then I can look back and see how God has equipped me in a special way to help my husband and raise my daughter as well as look forward to how he may or may not choose to use my experiences, learning, and mind to bless them and others.
I’m not sure how my life will look and how all this will pan out, but I love the story of the Mary who anointed Jesus with perfume. It touches me for several reasons, but I remember being particularly struck many years ago by the fact that what is considered a waste by others is considered a precious offering by Jesus. I want to offer my life to Jesus, education included, however that may look to me or to the world- even if it is considered a “waste” to some. As I learn the ropes as a new mommy, waking up in the middle of the night to feed my daughter, rejoicing at each little developmental stage she reaches, singing baby songs and looking ridiculous to make her smile so that I can sneak a spoonful of baby food past her pursed lips, and wondering if my mental capacities will ever return to the point where I will be good at speed Scrabble again, I am holding onto the fact that as I strive by grace to worship God in all things, he is the one who decides what is a waste and what is not.