A Season of Equipping
I can still remember clearly the Spring mornings during our last few months in Hungary where we would walk to school in the mornings and talk.
Why did it take us this long to start walking to school? I remember thinking during those days. The walk wasn’t bad; 10 or 12 minutes, tops – about the same time the 126 bus would take, after all the stops. We’d walk past the Farkas Erdo (“wolf forest”) and the small, neighborhood bar of the same name with a couple of guys drinking beers and an enticing dart board on one of the doors. I always wanted to go there, but never made it. Although our school would have probably been cool with me downing a couple pints of Soproni before my first lesson, I decided that was not for the best.
It was during these days that Kendahl and I began talking about what was coming next. As we got into April, May, and June, and the days kept ticking away faster and faster as they do, we both knew we would be pursuing graduate school upon returning to the States. Our minds were flooded with a sea of questions: Would it work? Would we be able to find jobs? Would we be able to find an affordable place to live? Are we insane?
We never thought it would be possible for both of us to pursue graduate degrees at the same time. We both knew that the other wanted to pursue grad school at some point, and figured we’d take turns supporting each other through it while at the same time coming to grips with the understanding that it would get harder and harder to “go back” as time passed. As things began to fall into place for us, and the reality became clear, we grew increasingly excited, almost giddy. During those morning walks, we’d often use the phrase:
“This will be hard, but it will be a season of equipping.”
What we meant by that, at the time, is that we knew we wouldn’t be able to give much during the next two years. We knew that we wouldn’t have a lot of time, energy, or money to be able to give to others and it would feel a bit selfish. We knew we wouldn’t be hosting dinners where we brilliantly cooked up gourmet recipes from the latest Shauna Niequist book or spending many hours volunteering at a church or non-profit. We knew we would have atypical schedules, that we would be busy and often drained. We were entering a season of equipping, where the small step backward over the course of two years would allow us to take giant steps forward in the area of giving, service, and generosity for the rest of our lives, both professionally and personally.
A season of equipping means taking that small step backward to focus a bit more on yourself, with the knowledge that the small step is preparing you to come out of that season equipped with enhanced tools, capacity, and ability to serve in ways you couldn’t beforehand.
Needless to say, as we’ve gone through these past two years, working part-time jobs, taking classes, trying to find quality time together, and attempting to balance it all, this vision has gotten clouded and sometimes forgotten. In much the same way I’d assume summiting Everest is more difficult than thinking about it, grad school has been much more difficult than either of us could have pictured two years ago. (Grad school is just like hiking Mount Everest, I’m sure. Perfect metaphor, bam!)
When we were on those walks in early 2016, I remember looking into the future and seeing us studying together in the evenings, teaching each other the fruits of what we were learning, and calmly and happily taking in all the benefits of being “equipped.” Some of those things have certainly happened, but here’s the thing: entering a season of equipping is hard.
It’s hard because you want to just go already, to make real money and feel like you have a place and a job and a community where everyone works the same hours as you and you want to feel like you’re making a real difference. You need patience.
It’s hard because you have to be willing to learn new ways of thinking, how to ask meaningful questions and live within tensions and gray areas. You need diligence.
It’s hard because you have to continue to give and serve, even if that means giving of yourself, your time, and your finances in smaller or different ways you were previously accustomed to. You need flexibility.
It’s hard because, when you and your spouse enter that season together, neither of you can give as much as you may want, and you may have to take on roles you previously never took on, like doing dishes and laundry or learning to listen and really hear.
It’s hard because, as my friend and modern philosopher Evan Buikema said, grad school is twice as much work as undergrad and half the fun. (Props to Evan, and anyone who has pursued a Doctorate. If a Master’s is climbing Everest, a Doctorate is orbiting Mars.)
A season of equipping is hard, but life is hard without pursuing grad school, and having the opportunity to get 2 Master’s degrees between the two of us is an incredible gift that many people do not get. It’s hard, but it is absolutely worth it.
It’s worth it because we now have skills we never would have picked up before. It’s worth it because we have made some amazing friends and connections and God has put people in our lives that have encouraged us and showed us how we can use these skills and passions to really serve in new and beautiful ways.
A season of equipping - whatever that may entail, school or otherwise - is worth it because when you come out of it, you really do feel equipped, and you feel energized and ready to take on the world. Perhaps that feeling is in part the result of naiveté or childish idealism. Maybe, though, it's also the result of enduring that season of equipping, complete with the patience, diligence, and flexibility you gathered, and finding that you made it all the way to the top of the mountain, looking back on the journey up, thankful for the climb.