Let’s get real, friends. I have three papers due on Tuesday. One is supposed to be 12-15 pages of original research. After Thanksgiving, I have three presentations, one 15-20-page paper, and two final exams to complete. I know I’m not the only one with a list like this. And this is only our school list, right? Nevermind our jobs, pets, families, and friends who all deserve (and require) attention, too. It would be nice if we could fit in some self-care in there somehow.
The numbing panic of mid-November is upon us.
It’s a special one for me, my last of undergrad. This time next year I’m supposed to be somewhere in the Northeast working towards my Ph.D. So on top of all those things we just listed, I have to apply for grad schools by January. I was so overwhelmed a couple of weeks ago, I decided to quit. I decided to move back home with my parents after graduation and write my grad school applications from the security of my high school bedroom. What’s one semester of lost time if it means I keep my sanity, right?
Reading Acts this semester has been greatly motivating for me in my senior year. I lack Paul’s ferocity, but I relate to him because we were both set on a journey founded by our passions but without a real map. Neither of us knew our destination, but we accepted the mission anyway. (Well, I’m still in the process of accepting the mission. It’s like a day-by-day thing, but that’s for another post.)
This week, Paul is in jail for like the gazillionth time, being persecuted by nearly everyone around him, and his list of people to save keeps getting longer. If the numbing panic of mid-November is upon him, he doesn’t show it.
“Cheerfully,” Paul makes his defense: (Acts 24:14-15)
This I admit to you… I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the prophets. I have a hope in God – a hope that they themselves also accept – that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and unrighteous.
At first, I want to tell myself, “Ana Maeve, if Paul was imprisoned for two years for no reason for God, you can do your homework.” But that kind of motivation doesn’t really work for me. I don’t like to compare people’s pain. We don’t compare people’s happiness; we don’t say, “it could be better” if someone is happy, so why do we think, “it could be worse” when we are sad? The possibility of more pain does not ease the pain we live in.
Instead, here’s some motivating ways of looking at Paul’s persecution to help us persevere:
1. Ask for help.
Paul didn’t just sit in prison and accept his fight. He appealed to the emperor for help to get out so he could continue his mission.
I’m so bad at asking for help. So bad at it that when I’m struggling, it doesn’t even occur to me to let people know. I went to my advisor to tell him I was going to take a semester off because I can’t handle completing my applications for grad school while I’m in school and working. Instead of accepting my decision or trying to persuade me otherwise, he offered to help. We sat down and laid out all the steps and talked through it. It suddenly felt doable! The weight wasn’t entirely on me. I had someone who wanted to help me carry it. I began to feel like it was possible.
There are so many people at CCW who want to help you! Whatever is making you feel overwhelmed and tempting you to give up, please let us carry the load for a bit.
2. Remember why you’re doing this.
I am Moana of Motunui. You will board my boat, sail across the sea, and restore the heart of Te Fiti.
“I have a hope in God that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and unrighteous.”
From Moana to Paul, the most motivated people have a clear mission that keeps them going.
If you know what your journey’s purpose is, keep it in the forefront of your mind as you study and read and write for the next three weeks. Don’t let the monotony convince you that your work is meaningless.
If you don’t know your mission, ask God to reveal it to you in His time. And for now, trust that today is leading you into tomorrow, where God wants you to be.
3. Don’t forget the distance you have come.
We don’t have evidence of Paul using this method of motivation, but if I was Paul’s friend, and he was discouraged, I would tell him to do this.
Paul matured into a wise leader by the end of Acts. He is not the same spitfire young man we met in chapter 8. Take a moment before finals this semester to reminisce about your orientation week at college. If anything, it will make you laugh, but it will probably make you feel proud. You’ve conquered so much! And you can conquer this too!
I am going to get these papers done, and I am going to complete my grad school applications, and I am going to graduate, and I am going to help build the kingdom. And you are, too. Just look at how far you’ve come!