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What I’ve Learned on the Other Side of the Desk

TGCvocations with Javier García
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Javier García is a religious studies professor at George Fox University, a Christian liberal arts school in Newberg, Oregon, where he also serves as associate director of the William Penn Honors Program. Javier has lived in Venezuela, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, and the United States. He’s a graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Cambridge.


What do you do every day?

I read and teach books for a living, and I love it. It’s a privilege to teach and learn in a community of Christians who are seeking the Lord together. On any given day, you can find me in my office or in a coffee shop plowing through a classic text—be it the Iliad or Leviticus—or prepping for my “Introduction to Christianity” course. I spend the rest of my time meeting with students, strategizing with colleagues, and grabbing a bite on campus.

As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?

College plays a key role in education and personal growth. The texts students read, their professors and classmates, the campus—all of these contribute to shaping who they become. As a professor, I’m called to participate in my students’ formation as I share life with them. I see myself as an image-bearer of God in how I model the Christian faith to my students; I view them, in turn, as image-bearers who are to bear that image in college and beyond.

How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?

I recently attended an academic conference where my own brokenness and temptations became all too apparent. As I caught up with old friends and networked with researchers in my field, I felt allured by competition, ambition, and desire for praise. When will my book come out? What big publisher will take it? Who will review it to solidify my reputation? I know I studied theology for better reasons, but the game of academia sucks me in. Are others getting ahead of me? Will I get tenure? Am I smart enough for this job? The rewards of worldly success—prestige, accolades, influence—often overshadow the simple pleasure of faith seeking understanding. I feel tempted to define myself by my work, and to make my work my life. So I need to be watchful and take time to recalibrate. I’m sure these struggles are common among academics.

Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?

Students come to my office for all sorts of reasons, but many come to talk about vocation; they want to hear my story and receive guidance. As we talk, I remember how intense life felt as a college student, how much I looked up to my professors, and how difficult it was to think about the future. Now I’m on the other side of the desk in this strangely familiar situation. Loving my students looks like asking questions, praying for them, and reminding them the Lord will work things out in the end.

Love also looks like patience. Students are experiencing the growing pains necessary for deep learning. The rule at my seminar table is “Love everyone in the room.” That goes for them and for me.

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