Monday, December 26, 2016

Life in Revision

Yesterday my fantastic wife gave me (Jonathan) a framed copy of the Theodore Roosevelt quote that inspired Daring Greatly.  This past semester my staff and I have been reading the book and discussing how it can impact us.  A little over a week ago I participated in Virginia Tech’s commencement ceremony and was formally “hooded” and received my degree.  I figured it is time to write one more piece on my doctoral journey.  To get caught up to this point, check out this postthis post, and this post.  In summary, I took some really important exams, failed them, worked through that failure and ultimately passed them, but it was messy. 

I love the Advent/Christmas season and its accompanying soundtrack.  I love some of the classic hymns such as “O Holy Night.”  And while contemporary songs seem to struggle to catch some of the depth and meaning of the season, I’m drawn to a rather recent Christmas song called “Snow” by Sleeping at Last.  It is not your usual celebratory, uplifting Christmas song.  While I can’t say what the songwriter’s impetus was for writing the song, personally I hear it as a song of struggle and growth.  Of pain and taking steps for moving forward.  One of my favorite lines is “life without revision will silence our souls.” 

Who are we if we don’t take time to examine our lives and make edit?.  We can’t go back and change choices we made, but we can let those choices inform our future.  I had no intentions of failing my prelims, but a few years later I can see how that experience provided me with a need sense of resiliency.  It demonstrated the importance of my system of support led by my wife and enhanced by my kids, parents, in-laws, colleagues at VT, my Blacksburg community and church, and eventually my Lafayette community and church. 

Just over a year ago, I struggled mightily in my dissertation proposal exam.  Thankfully I did pass it, but it wasn’t pretty.  It was another humbling experience; I had to seek outside help on my writing and even more expanded time on my dissertation.  That led to a fantastic final dissertation defense in June.  My committee was very impressed with my work and that was capped off last week as I got to walk the stage and be hooded by one of the most important people in my story, Frank Shushok.  As we were sitting, waiting for our turn to go on stage, we reflected on my journey.  And he reminded me that despite the hurdles along the way, I’m still the first to graduate from my cohort of five.  His comment was not made in a competitive nature, but rather a reminder of the perils and challenges of a PhD journey.

So I have the title of “Dr.” and three beautiful velvet stripes on my academic regalia.  However, they are both symbols (important symbols nonetheless), of a transformative journey.  Not necessarily the path I would have drawn up in August 2011 when I started the journey, but the journey I needed to take.  A journey of revision after revision.  Because as the refrain of “Snow” states:

Like the petals in our pockets
May we remember who we are
Unconditionally cared for
By those who share our broken hearts

Note:  Sleeping At Last's Christmas Collection, which includes "Snow," can be downloaded for free at  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. Brene Brown also has a followup book entitled Rising Strong. It has particularly given Ronnie and I insight into 'the story we tell ourselves' in the midst of our circumstances. Our own interpretations of the underworkings of our earthy world and fellow people can shed light on your own inner struggles... I truly believe God uses these circumstances and struggles to build our character and strengthen our faith if we chose to trust Him and 'stay in the arena'. Congrats a million times over on your perseverance! What a great example you have laid for your family through this season of life!