Saturday, November 26, 2011

The weight of words

Scholars love words. Some researches prefer words to people.

But I'm finding there is a heavy weight in words. When I started my dissertation and wrote the first paper on it, I couldn't find information on early Pentecostal missionary women. Meanwhile, a friend wrote a fantastic dissertation on the rhetoric of early Pentecostal women (Joy Qualls, Regent University) and there are more papers coming down the pipeline all the time.

I'm drowning in all the information I'm supposed to know as "background" for my own findings. As I'm rewriting an article (to be defended in place of tutorial exams), I've begun rereading the print-outs, books, and pages I've assembled in my file cabinet. I feel strangled by the weight of words pressing on me. And I still have two big phases of defense and writing left, though I'm hoping to finish with them this year.

If I don't get through this year, I'm taking the summer off to breathe before tackling the beast again in the fall. My worry is that so many of us are writing at the same time: if I don't get my work approved, who knows if someone else's work will make mine moot. Argh. Even in the last five years, the topic seems to be covered better and better. Another year? I might have to toss my work out altogether.

Barbara Cavaness, who kicked off Assemblies of God research on their female missionaries with her groundbreaking dissertation on single female missionaries, gave me access to her file cabinet. She has neatly sorted articles and copies and papers on all kinds of studies done about missionaries, especially single women. And she hasn't had the time or heart to pass them on since she wrote almost a decade ago.

I'm afraid that may happen to me as well. Many scholars get so attached to all the things we've collected that it wraps itself around us. I suspect that I'm going to be happy to let everything go, though. This process has become a burden, boring me with its minucia, fiddles with editing, and the sheer volume of sameness. Though I want to focus, I'm like the little boy in the picture, lifting what doesn't feel real. After a while, it seems like I'm going backwards rather than forwards. It's like shopping in 101 malls, all of which have the same stores with slightly different displays.

Oh Lord, help! Let me not be wasting my time and yours as I bench press through the weight of scholars before me!

What's weighing you down or causing you to put life on hold?

Read more:
*Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.' This is the message you must give to the people of Israel." Exodus 19:3–6 NLT

*I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:145-147 NIV

*"And don't address anyone here on earth as 'Father,' for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don't let anyone call you 'Teacher,' for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." Matthew 23:9–12 NLT

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