There’s a good reason so many of our prayers start with “Thank you.” However big our burdens may be, they come after thanksgiving to God for making it possible to request something of Him in the first place.
I feel the same urge to start with “Thank you” today as I resume blogging after a month away. It doesn’t seem right to post any new articles I’ve been working on until I pause to thank my readers. You encouraged me with your comments, emails, tweets, and Facebook messages during the past few weeks. I especially enjoyed hearing from many of you who read my blog but rarely comment.
So, dear readers, thank you for praying for me as I spent some time away in order to make significant headway on my dissertation. After years of reading and writing on the topic of eschatological discipleship, I submitted a rough draft of the dissertation late last week.
Flying with a Ph.D
The process of writing a doctoral dissertation reminds me of an airplane ride. You take off in a certain direction, knowing the journey will be long, but trusting that at the end it will have been worth it.
Taking off is a little hectic. Like the cabin of the airplane, your brain groans and creaks, and you feel the pressure change as you engage books that stretch your mental capacities. The higher you go, the more rarified the air is; the longer it takes to read, the more you learn.
But then, after the initial months of challenge, you reach cruising altitude – the longest and most pleasant part of the journey (in my case, more than two years!). Occasionally, you encounter a book that causes a little turbulence, and so you jump back and reconsider your direction, correct your thinking, and switch a few gears. But most of the ride is calm, as you underline and take notes in hundreds of books, write preliminary papers to push your research along, and slowly form a thesis you hope will contribute something of value to the conversation you have joined.
Pressure builds as you begin your descent. You put your seat back in its upright position, put up the tray tables, and begin to compile all your research, aware that you will need to land soon. There is so much to do, so much to say, and so many people to cite. The lower the plane goes, the more the pressure builds. You have to decide what new trails to follow and what paths to ignore. You devour books to the very last minute. (Everyone talks about that book, so I have to work my way through it too, right?!). So, on you go — strengthening and tweaking your research, second-guessing your choices, and wondering if you’ll ever finish.
At some point, you have to stop circling the runway and land the plane. If we fly forever, we will run out of gas and the whole project will crash. (And if you’ve ever talked to someone who made it almost to the end of their Ph.D studies and didn’t finish, you’ve probably heard them talk about running out of gas!)
Finishing the rough draft is like preparing to land. The pressure amps up. The engines roar. All your writing and reading has to stop. Like everyone else who has been at this stage, you are painfully aware of the remaining gaps in your knowledge. All of this hard work is provisional when you realize you could spend several lifetimes studying the same topic and never come to the end.
That’s where I’m at right now. There may be some bumps as I revise the dissertation in light of my professors and supervisors’ comments. (I don’t even want to think of doing an oral defense at this point!) But the ride is coming to an end. It’s time to land the plane, after years of study, and finish one of the most exhausting and enjoyable journeys of my life.
Changes Coming to Kingdom People
What does this mean for the blog?
I have been reflecting for a while now on the nature of blogging, the role of social media, and the best way to serve people through writing.
For the foreseeable future, I plan to blog at a different pace. Instead of posting something new every day, I will post two or three times a week — an article at Religion News Service, and two articles here at the The Gospel Coalition. I plan on keeping my weekly “Trevin’s Seven” list of links.
The biggest change is that my “Worth a Look” posts and “Kindle Deals” will move exclusively to my Twitter and Facebook pages. I recognize that many of you who read my blog do so for my list of links rather than whatever I’ve chosen to write about that day. I will continue to point you to good articles, but you will find them on my Facebook page, not my blog. If you would like to subscribe to my email list, you can do so here.
My plan is not to spend less time blogging, but to blog less. In other words, I will put the same time and energy into blogging as before, but my focus will be on writing better, fewer articles. (I am also pursuing a new book idea, and this will help me preserve the mental bandwidth necessary for thinking creatively about future projects.)
Thank you again for reading Kingdom People. And thanks for your prayers and patience!