I came to Urbana 12 from the rigorous and relentless academics of grad school and found myself in the midst of thousands of other scholars seeking an answer to the same question I had: What is God’s will for my life? I found in Urbana a space set apart to ask these kinds of questions and to refocus on how the Lord was shaping my call in life. At Urbana I was able to have conversations with others in academia about vocation in the context of the gospel.
One of the most profound moments for me at Urbana 12 was in attending an event sponsored by the Emerging Scholars Network (an essential group to know for any Christian academic). The room was packed to the brim with grad students, postdocs, and professors who had come to hear Greg Jao share his heart for scholarship and God’s mission for our minds. As I sat at his feet (literally; the chairs were all filled) he said our intellectual and spiritual selves need not be at odds, but in reality go hand in hand with each other. He encouraged us to fully engage our minds, both in our academic research as well as in our walk with God. Midway through my graduate work, these were the words my soul so very badly needed. Greg was giving me the good news I longed to hear; that I could be one integrated person and didn’t have to straddle two divided worlds.
And I found I was not alone in this journey! As I continued to talk with other participants at Urbana 12, I found so many others who understood both my academic life and my Christian life; people from across the country and around the world who, like me, want to discern God’s calling on their lives. Over the course of those five days, I heard the testimonies of dozens of scholars and intellectuals who can—and do—put their trust in an unseen God.
I personally know how tempting it can be to put off going to Urbana; grad school lasts so long and is so taxing on our time and financial resources. “Some other time” would be a better time, right? But there will always be distractions as we walk with God through our lives. There will always be obligations: first grad school, then a postdoc, then maybe an associate professorship, followed by the tenure gauntlet. By then, maybe you’ve started a family that will also vie for your attention.
The point is, there will always be reasons to put it off. But the joy of surrendering to God’s love is there to be had right now, right where we are. And just as the joy of God’s love is for you here and now, when you surrender to it, that love has ramifications for you, here and now. In other words, your participation in God’s global mission starts now, as a student, in your academic setting, within the limits you’re experiencing.
The joy of surrendering to God’s love is there to be had right now, right where we are. In other words, your participation in God’s global mission starts now, as a student, in your academic setting, within the limits you’re experiencing.
I do not know where God’s calling will take you, but I know Urbana is not just about setting you up for some future calling; Urbana is about finding your life now, where you are. Urbana has the potential to radically transform our time in grad school and how those around us experience God though us. Take advantage of the opportunity right now. Use it to fuel your remaining years of study and get you started right now on a lifetime of joyful surrender to God.
For more on Graduate and Faculty Ministries at Urbana, click here or visit Facebook.