Sunday, December 20, 2009

"B" is for Balance

It is the beautiful time of the seminary year in which final grades have been posted, but the syllabus for my J-term class has not. I officially have nothing to be reading for school... no papers to write, no theological reflecting to be doing. I must admit that I could really get used to this.

Another thing that this time of the year brings is the inevitable facebook status updates that people make as professors post the students' grades to the student portal. As I was reading through (a.k.a.
being a creeper) my facebook news feed, one specific status update caught my eye. My friend posted the following...

Hmmmm... one D+, two Cs, and an F... a 1.325 average ..... maybe this place isn't for me....

Immediately upon reading, I was concerned. I know that this friend is an intelligent (and might I add well dressed... friend, you can pay me later for that one) and not one that should be receiving that type of grades. My husband, who is also a friend of this person on facebook (real life, too, just in case you were wondering...), sent me a text message regarding said status message, inquiring to its authenticity. I did the only sensible thing. I sent my friend a BBM (blackberry message) to find out. This is how the conversation played out. I have taken a bit of liberty with the conversation.

Me: Was that your real GPA?
Friend: No, just sick of people bragging.
Me: You and me both. I was just so worried!
Friend: Thank you.
Me: And between you and me, I work hard not to let anyone make me feel like crap about my 3.1 average... but it takes a lot
Friend: You shouldn't. Guess what? People who get 3.1 are pastors. B's get degrees.

Wow... I bet this friend had NO IDEA how much I needed this conversation. I have always been the kind of person who was hesitant to share my grades. In high school, I usually got higher grades than people, so I didn't want to share them for fear of making someone else feel bad. In college, I found that my high school education was perhaps not quite as challenging as those of some of my peers, and that my lackadaisical attitude toward school was going to prove a stumbling block to me. I had to learn how to study (which I still am not sure I know how to do), and my grades were not as good as those of my friends. This is not to say that my grades were bad, but I have always considered myself blessed to be surrounded by such intelligent human beings, and my college friends were
certainly no exception to that. As they were flourishing in academia, I was working four time as hard to merely keep my head above water.

Then at graduation, something interesting happened. I had never really cared that my grades were not as flawless as my friends, but as I walked into the gymnasium to take my place in the line of graduates, many were wearing chords. These chords were bright orange against their black robes, so they were not to be missed. I realized as I flipped through the graduation program that the chords were to signify those who had graduated "with high honors" or "with honors." I did not have either of those chords. I was proud of my GPA and the fact that it had earned me a scholarship to continue my education at the graduate level, but I had never thought of the sinking feeling in my stomach I would feel as I posed for pictures with my friends who were chorded while I was looking stunning in my plain black robe (may I just add, however, that I had the best shoes... a rocking pair of pointy, pink, glittery pumps). If you wonder why acceptance from peers is such a big deal to me, read my previous post. I am working on it...

I imagine that my mother would have told me that the chords didn't matter, and she would have been right. After that day I could not have cared less who had a chord and who didn't...

But then I came to seminary.

Seminary is, I imagine, like many other graduate programs where people usually inquire about academic situations. "How do you think you did on that test?" Or, in the case of seminary, "How do you think that sermon turned out?" or, "man, I really think I aced that Hebrew exam!" Now, I truly believe that 99% of the people who engage in the practice of grade inquiring do not do so to put anyone down or to lift themselves up, but there are those few people that I have encountered who make me feel like they just HAD to tell me that they got an A on their final or a glowing evaluation to make me remember that I didn't. And I know that I should not let my hard work be diminished by comparing it to the work of others, but it happens!

But from here on out, I will keep in mind the words of my friend... "People who get 3.1 are pastors." Yeah! I am a pastor. Sometimes I have to tell myself again and again that sitting in the room at the nursing home may sometimes be more important than doing the supplemental readings for class. Sometimes a funeral may pop up the week of a presentation, and the presentation has to take the back seat.

Now, I understand that there are a few students out there who manage to balance 2+ jobs plus families and other responsibilities and manage to pull off a 4.0 (I know this because I am friends with a few of them), but I have become more comfortable in knowing that I am not that kind of person. If I allow myself to dwell on my grades, I will not be able to maintain the relationships necessary for keeping my family and my ministry healthy.

So I have learned in seminary that, for me, "B" stands for balance. And a balanced "B" is a grade that I will humbly accept any semester.


Christina said...

Oh my dear Anna, such wonderful insight! I hate how stressed out and frustrated I get over an A-. And all the time, I realize how many students would have loved the A- that I loathe! In my defense, seminary is not the end of the road for me and a 3.1 won't cut it to get into a PhD program, but I am (slowly) learning that an A- is not the end of the world and that, as you put it, I could use a little more "balance" in my life. I admire you for your ability to realize that some things are more important than getting an A on the paper.

April Casperson said...

Preach it, Anna. Proud of you. You rock.

pinegreen said...

Fabulous post. Really.

~ Anna G ~ said...

Christina, I think it is important to not have a "have/have not" attitude. I am happy that my friends can make A's, but I do not sit around wishing that I had gotten an A. I worked hard for my B (and, I do get A's sometimes!), and so I am proud of it.

On the other hand, I am so glad that I do not want to do any more graduate/doctoral work after this. I couldn't handle it. I am schooled out!!

Michele said...

B is for best effort, and that's all God asks for.
i used to say, i do what i can with what i have. i think you do too :)

Anonymous said...

At my seminary, we have the saying, "C = Church"! I am having to remind myself that my life is more than grades and ministry is more than classwork, but I am working towards valuing relationships > academics.

Someone asked me recently, "If no one ever saw your grades, how would you change?" When I was abroad, that was the situation and I took advantage of every learning experience I could --- in and out of the classroom! I don't remember my grades from abroad (I think they were in the B/C range), but I do remember what I learned in my courses and the experiences that I had that still affect my life & ministry. Perhaps we seminarians need to cultivate that abroad attitude today...