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Idols of a seminarian's heart

This could also be more generally entitled "Idols of a Student's Heart," because what I'm thinking about is the reality of how a love of learning can actually become an idol. This morning, I read a very good article by Christina Fox about idolatry and motherhood. I like Christina's writing very much, and I saw much of myself as a young mother in her post.

We all know that anything can be an idol. What is an idol for me may not be an idol for you. I never realized how much learning could become an idol until I began seminary. 

In high school, I was not a great student, performing really well in things like history, English, and French, but miserably in math and science. As for physics, well, that's a double whammy failure: science and math in one. When I was in university (where I could leave math behind forever), I was a good student, and I loved to see an A on my transcript, but if it was a B, I was still satisfied. My marks in seminary are the best I have ever attained. And it's great to finally not feel like a total dolt.

At the end of this semesters, I began to realize that I need to be careful about letting this become an idol. Getting good marks in Greek Exegesis class was really important to me, and there was a number I was hoping for. While my overall mark was higher, my mark on the final was 80%. When I was in high school, that was a great mark, and even in university, it would have made me happy. All I could think of was "What did I do wrong?" I also received an 80% mark on a Synoptic Gospels assignment and when I saw that, I asked myself "What could I have done to get a higher mark?" Those are both bad thoughts. I know it in my head. There's being a perfectionist and then there's being unreasonably perfectionistic.

I don't have a check list of things to guide someone into recognition that learning has become an idol, but I can tell you that if you're dreaming at night about failing classes and having trouble sleeping because you are anxious to get up and start studying more, you may be a problem. 

As a mother, I too often evaluated my worth by how well my children behaved. Later, it was in what they were doing as young adults. Now, it is how well I'm doing in school. Idolatry creeps in when we want to control, and being able to do well in seminary is a control thing for me. I often wonder if I would enjoy school as much if I were struggling to pass my classes. Would I still find the spiritual benefits as great?

This morning, I was reading Psalm 36, and I underlined this line: "Let not the foot of pride come upon me." It is true that in the context of the psalm, the psalmist is talking about his enemies and how he will handle them. It's not exactly the same as my situation, but most days, I do see my pride as my worst enemy.

Tomorrow, school begins, and I am excited. I love learning, and I love being in class learning alongside others. May my heart's ultimate loyalty be on the God whom I am learning about and not on the grade point average.

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