The last time we worked in Kenya, I was asked to teach a course with the riveting title of “Research Methodology”. The Archbishop, who was then working on his Doctor of Ministry degree, wanted all his pastors to know how to do research so that if they got the opportunity to do advanced study, they would not have to spend the first part of their course finding out how to do basic research like he had to. I enjoy research and study and so didn’t mind the course–except for the part where I suggested that to really do research, the students would have to know some statistics, only to be told that I would have to teach that as well.
Anyway, the students were required to develop, research and implement a project using all the knowledge they received in the course. Each student was assigned a faculty mentor to help guide him/her through the process. I had three of the students assigned to me and then for a variety of reasons, ended up with a fourth. I had laid out a clear time line for all the students, giving dates for various things to be done in order for the students to finish the project and the course. We ended up returning to Canada before the projects were due but I arranged to do the mentoring via email.
Some of those assigned to me kept in close contact, sending parts and summaries on a regular basis. One of them decided to do the whole project and then email me–he ended up starting over because he hadn’t done a very good job. As the deadline got closer, I began to hear more and more from three of them, all of whom gave me the news that the school had imposed a new deadline that was now getting close. The new deadline was later than the original but that is almost to be expected in that context.
One got his work finished early this year. Two of them got the stuff in just before the deadline–close to it and close together, of course, so I was quite busy for a week. The fourth–well, I hadn’t heard anything from him for a while and assumed that he had to drop his study program for some reason. The deadline came and I thought I was done–it was actually a little sad to be done and therefore finished with my last official contact with the school.
Then, on a Thursday evening, I got an email from the fourth student. He had been given an extended deadline–he had until the following Monday to get his project in so that it would be ready for the oral defence that week. Part of the paper was attached and the rest would follow later–could I please read, correct and mark it so he could get a finished copy to the school by Monday.
Let’s see–I have a trip to the city that will take the whole of the next day. Saturday, I have some plans involving the basement steps and dog hair. Sunday, I have to preach. There are also things like some relaxation, Skype conversations with some of our children and grandchildren, some research I am doing for a project of my own and whatever else comes alone.
The paper is late–well beyond the deadline. No one bothered to tell me about the extension and the student hadn’t bothered to tell me he was having problems and wasn’t able to do a lot on the project. I have things that I need–and want–to do myself. So, I either give up some of my stuff and spend the hours necessary to go over and comment and mark the project or I let the lateness and lack of notice allow me to forget the whole thing and teach him a lesson about punctuality and all that.
The easy answer, of course, is that I be Christ-like and do the marking. But the truth is that I was frustrated and annoyed with both the student and the school–I don’t like things that I have to rush through and resent being asked at the last minute to do major stuff that really requires more time.
But I am also called to love as Christ loved–so I did the marking by the deadline. The point of this post, though, is that we need to realize that being Christ-like isn’t easy or automatic–it is demanding and ask that we make changes and do things that we might not do on our own. Recognizing that it isn’t easy being Christ-like is an important part of the process.
May the peace of God be with you.