Whew—what a whirlwind the weeks leading up to midterms were! By about this time in the semester, everyone starts spending less time socializing at meals and rushes off to finish reviewing for that next big test that’s looming. One often sees students walking around with a book or flashcards, or people off in corners intently reciting history facts or Spanish vocabulary. I, for one, ended up regaling friends with History of the English Language notes while we waited in the lunch line. (Guess who’s going to avoid me the next time they see me coming with a notepad in hand?)
Another notable event of the week—at least in my grandmother’s eyes—was my twenty-second birthday. Unfortunately, I spent most of the day in frenetic study, and when friends asked me what I was doing to celebrate, a sort of garbled, “Please don’t throw me a party or anything that might take time away from studying” escaped my lips…but the day was special, in spite of all the homework, because of all the sweet notes, phone calls, and happy birthday wishes. One friend also made me sugar cookies, and another gave me a pair of earrings. The Admissions Office even got me a delicious cookie cake—I was so impressed that they remembered my birthday! ‘Twas a special day because of the wonderful people God has put in my life.
During the intense couple of weeks leading up to Fall Break, the social life of most people on campus tends to effervesce into the realm of the wished-for-but-currently-nonexistent. Unless, of course, study groups count as socializing. Studying in a group can be extremely helpful—not least when the participants keep from devolving into bouts of hyperventilation (not that I would ever do that). But in all seriousness, especially in the midst of exam season, it’s important for me to step back and ask myself why I’m studying or working hard in the first place.
A lesson I seem to learn again and again is that, if my aim is to bring glory to self and to earn the praise of men, I just won’t be able to continue when my stamina is running low and I’m exhausted by the rigors of academic life. If self-aggrandizement is the goal in view, either failure will lead to despair or success will lead to disillusionment and pride, because nothing apart from Jesus Christ can ultimately satisfy. A challenging round of exams and essays often reminds me of this truth. Consequently, I Corinthians 10:31 is a verse I try to keep in mind continually: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Though hardly on par with Scripture, a couple of Inklings quotes were also a help to me last week amidst the exam-craziness. Gandalf’s words to Frodo are, I think, quite relevant for the college student juggling massive amounts of reading and writing: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” In The Weight of Glory (an incredible book of essays that is a must-read), Lewis states that “the present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.” Especially for those believers with perfectionist-tendencies, it’s important to be reminded that all we can do is seek to wisely the time we have, for the glory of the One who has called us. And for those of us who tend to be lazy or lackadaisical in our approach to the work God has placed before us, it’s important to remember that our time is not our own and that we serve a great King. If we really believed that, how would the way we spend our time look different?