Comps and Teaching

I passed my comprehensive exams. I am not sure how I feel about it just yet. On one hand I am excited to be finished with coursework and being tested, but on the other hand I question that I deserve to pass. Am I really ready? Will I one day be unmasked as the person who knows much less than she should? This is how I feel: twisted up in my middle-parts, not like a jazzfest. keith-haring-montreux-jazz-festival-1983A friend tells me that self-deprecation doesn’t suit me well, and I am not sure that I am necessarily self-deprecating. I would say that I have lots of self-doubt. I don’t know where all that self-doubt stems from, because I used to be self-assured and almost prideful. I knew I could do anything. I knew I was intelligent. I knew that I could skate by in almost any situation.

Maybe it is maturity, maybe it is being around people who are more intelligent than I am, maybe it is simply intellectual development, but I feel less adept at scholarly endeavors now than ever. I think I might just have more of a handle on those things that I don’t know than I did before. I just need to make sure I don’t let those fears, or doubts, paralyze me.

*

I need to get through this dissertation, well, at least the proposal, in a quick minute if I want to keep teaching at Burris. I have until December to get it finished. Or no Burris. And, I do love Burris.

My students are really engaged. Today we discussed race and ethnicity at the turn of the century, using Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “Frederick Douglass” and “We Wear the Mask” and Chief Joseph’s speech, “I Will Fight No More Forever,” at his surrender to the US Army. My students recognized that some racial relationships are cyclical, and were comparing the way the speaker feels in Dunbar’s “Mask” to the way different ethnicities feel they have to put on a mask today. They also did a really good analysis of the original texts, aside from their cultural conversation. It was an excellent discussion, and I was really proud of them! They rock.

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I think the more I wrestle with my place in academia, the Church, and culture, the more difficult it is for me to clearly define who I am or even who I want to be. Sometimes I feel lost in trying to define myself. But, this feeling of confusion helps me to give more grace to those people around me. My own lost sensibility helps me to recognize the chaos inside other people and to give them more grace.

Maybe that is what the psalmists mean when they write, “Deep calls to deep at the roar of the waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.”  Do the speaker know the feeling of being lost within themselves and wondering if anyone else has ever felt that particular sensation? Or are they merely recognizing the fact that God is the only entity who can clearly save us from our own uncertainties. Is this why Paul later writes in Phillipians, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”? Does Paul know how God’s deep settles our unsettled deepness? Do the sons of Korah know this, too? They end their Psalm with these words: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Of course, if you read Psalm 43 along with Psalm 42, you get the whole picture of the speaker asking God to come to his/her aid.

With that said,  I feel like I am getting more adept at locating other people’s weaknesses and giving them support, but I also feel like I am allowing myself to be more vulnerable and also more accepting of the grace of others. I am not sure what this means, but I feel like it is happening.

If I am becoming more like Christ, bring it on.

I want to live graciously in all ways.

I want to be able to say: “I am your message, Lord. Throw me like a blazing torch into the night, that all may see and understand what it means to be a disciple.” – St. Maria Skobtsova, Orthodox nun and martyr (1891-1945)

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