A Lesson in Gratitude

The American Academy of Religion (AAR) society meeting has been going on last weekend. Most things wrap up sometime today. I was really hoping I could make it this year. It was in Chicago. I have a friend I could stay with, but our finances are pretty tight. I was trying to find a way to make it work right up until last Friday, but I just could not swing it.

I am a bit starved for intense theological dialogue. I learn best when I surround myself with people who are smarter than me. I have not been able to attend the past several AAR meetings, partly because of expense, and partly because I was trying to focus on my dissertation. Cost has kept me off the conference circuit for too long.

Only obsessive people get PhD’s, at least in the humanities. I got into theology because I love it, but I have spent the past few years starved for intelligent conversation. It hasn’t helped that I have also been able to see updates from friends who are there right now. I have been reminded of what (and whom) I am missing. I spent a lot of energy this weekend just trying to keep myself together.

I need to be attending more conferences. I need to be networking. I am hoping I can make it to the Sophia Conference in a couple of weeks, but I know chances are slim that that will work out, too. So this morning, in the shower (with apologies for the visual), I was having one of my regular conversations with that part of me that has the self-confidence of a large cockroach (read Kafka), the little voice in my head that inflates the negative and minimizes the positive. A couple of years of therapy has taught me to recognize that voice, and to try to gain some perspective. I was able to realize that I do have a few things going for me. I am not at the AAR, and I probably will not make it to Sophia, but I have a lot to be thankful for.

    I have been producing. I just published an article critiquing John Milbank’s use of Sergei Bulgakov. I have a book review I am trying to finish by the end of this month (I need to finish re-reading the book). I was invited to write a chapter in a forthcoming book on Jonathan Edwards. I was also invited to sit on a panel dealing with public theology at next year’s SECSOR conference.

    I have a job. Work is scarce for a theologian right now. There are people I know, who are way smarter than me, who struggle to find steady work. That is probably the way it is going to be forever. The new model is to use adjunct professors as much as possible. I am thankful to work at a job that provides me with a steady income, good benefits, and a sense of purpose. I really love what I do.

    I have opportunities to teach. I am teaching “World Religions” to kids this Spring (as part of Vanderbilt PTY’s SAVY program). I am nearly finished teaching a philosophy course at O’More College of Design, and this Spring I will be offering a course on the history of Christian political thought. That’s right! I get to teach political theology to design students! How cool is that?

    I have a voice. Basically, I am doing what I want to do. My calling has never been only to talk to academics. I have always wanted to do theology for a wider public. Academic writing helps keep me sharp, but what I publish on this blog, the Huffington Post, radio broadcasts and interviews, and most recently Huffington Post Live (I hope) helps keep me relevant. I have heard that the average article in an academic journal gets read by about twelve people. I am fortunate to be able to publish in academic journals, and also to have a broader audience to speak to and learn from.

So I still feel kinda crappy, but not as much as I was yesterday. Not only are people with PhD’s obsessive, but most of them (at least the honest ones) will admit to being full of self-doubt, as if at any moment we will be exposed for the frauds that we are. On the one hand, doubts push me to work harder, but they can also be petrifying and counter productive. Being grateful for what is going right in my life right now does not make everything all better, but it does help silence my inner cockroach, at least for a little while.

One thought on “A Lesson in Gratitude”


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.