The Spiritual Elements of Writing a Dissertation

st-francis-of-assisi-1643Tis been a while since I last posted. That’s because I have finished writing my dissertation, allowed my committee to read and make recommendations on it, and have spent the last several weeks revising it based on their remarks. Just this weekend, the chair of my committee re-read my revised dissertation and made only two comments where I needed to rework a point here or there. As of today, the head of the department emailed me saying that he too was going to begin reading it.

This is the stage called “hurry up and wait.” What I know with certainty is that my research is solid but imperfect. This project could be read by several people and institutions, and I’m sure that they’d all remark on a change needed here or an emphasis needed there. There are books and articles that I haven’t read about my research only because I don’t know about them. There is possibly even more that I could add to my overall project to make it fuller.

Two things come to mind on this project:

  1. Grace. As hard as I’ve tried to make this work perfect—as hard as I’ve read, researched, and written—it will never be perfect. I depend on my committee’s grace. Luckily for me, all on my committee are Christian gentlemen who often refer to me as “brother.” We have a collegial relationship, but that doesn’t take away from the standards to which we all aspire as scholars. I want this work to be high in standard and reflect my hard work, but no matter how hard I work, I depend on grace from them. As a Christian, I’ve relied on God’s grace. I try so hard each day to be who He wants me to be, but ultimately, I’m imperfect and need his simple kindness.
  2. Faith. One of the most painful lessons is complete trust. I recall in the book of Esther when for close to one year Esther had to commit herself to God’s timing and providence. Sometimes the hardest part of the Christian life is trusting in God’s timing when we’re so predisposed to instant gratification and drive-through service. Now, I wait. I hope that I’ve done solid revising and that my research is received in time.

I have viewed this process as a spiritual journey. I have often prayed that God allows my research to glorify Him above all things. I sincerely hope that it does this regardless of how it might be received or rejected by anyone else. If I can contribute anything, of course, I’d love for it to be a game-changing work, but (realistically) I’ll be pleased for it to glorify Christ.

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