Finals week, first things and unfavorable times
“Seminary is so busy,” we’ve all said. Work, family, school, church and everything else presses for our time. As a student, this never feels more true than finals week. But as soon as finals are over, the narrative goes, then we’ll get things back in order, then we’ll make up for the neglect we’ve shown our own soul. We may need to sacrifice our spiritual health now, but a favorable time is near.
But, as C.S. Lewis said, a favorable time never comes.
“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come,” Lewis wrote in his essay, “Learning in War-Time.”
While knowledge is not all we’re after, much of what it means to live the Christian life is to keep our eyes on things above when the things below demand our attention. If anything, when compared with finals week, the time grows less favorable and the things below — work, school, etc. — clamor for our time even more.
This doesn’t mean Christians shouldn’t work or study as hard as they can, but that they do so unto the Lord and not man. Or, as Lewis said elsewhere, they should keep first things first.
“Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things,” he wrote.
If anything, what finals week offers the seminary student is a barometer of how strong his or her priorities stand against a little pressure. If the only time you read and meditate on Scripture, pray in secret and love your family is when time allows, then there’s a good chance you don’t do those things very often. If finals week is enough to unsettle your priorities, you need to address the problem before the rest of your life happens. Finals week is not a favorable time. Life isn’t a very favorable time, either.
So work hard. Study hard. Pursue excellence in your studies and don’t waste this opportunity. But prioritize the health of your soul now. What will it profit you if you gain straight A’s and lose your soul? Walk in integrity now. Spend time reading Scripture, praying and worshiping now. Spend time with your family now.
For the sake of consistency, I’ll let C.S. Lewis say it better: “Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future.”
Work unto the Lord, not man, and make the best use of your time. Go through finals week the way you should go through all the unfavorable times in your life, and that’s by keeping first things first.
Matt Damico is a staff writer for Southern Seminary. He graduated from Southern in 2012 with a master of divinity in Christian ministry and serves as associate pastor of worship at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.