A Student’s Tale

It has been said that youth is wasted on the young.  It is probably also true that education is wasted on the uneducated.  I was twenty-four when I received my Master’s Degree.  I finished High School, and then signed up for the next step.  I did a short stint at the International Institute of ACE, and then I went to Bob Jones University.  I worked straight through doing three sessions of summer school making up for the credits I lost at the International Institute.  I was twenty-two with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  I still haven’t figured out why I was in college in the first place, and I was totally unready to face the world.  At that point I had only succeeded in eliminating several Mrs. Not Sidney Hagen.  Bagging the actual Mrs. Sidney Hagen had not happened prior to the Bachelor’s degree so it was a move from Senior Panic to Graduate Grabs.  Thankfully Dianne said, “Yes” somewhere in the mix, or I would have a PhD hanging on my wall.

I had finished a Master of Arts, and was working on a Master of Divinity, and then I saw the future Mrs. Sidney Hagen.  I was twenty-four.  My grandmother who paid the bills on my college education was quite content to keep paying for my educational adventures.  I had never filed a tax return, because I was always someone’s dependent.  I had only taken work on the side because I was bored.  I had been in school without a break from 1966-1985.  For nineteen years of my twenty-four year life, I had been a student and I was tired of it.

I took a job burning boards on a construction site.  It was one of the happiest times of my life.  With a Master’s degree I made $5.00 per hour.  Within two weeks of taking the job, I was called in by one of the partners of the business and given a raise to $5.50 an hour.  He told me that he had never had anyone in the position I occupied that actually wanted to work.  They farmed me out to the painters, and I spent hours sanding cabinets.  On our job site one of my jobs was to pick up the debris left by the sub-contractors.  I had great delight in burning the shingles flung all over the jobsite by a particularly sloppy roofer.  As he cussed in the burnt shingle smoke I sent his way, the balance of nature was right.  Years of teaching pounded in my head that it was right to give your employer an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay was paying off.  The best part of my job was that I was not required to think at all.  It was heaven for about six months.

I am called to be a tradesman.  I think if I had a life verse I would choose Proverbs 22:29.

“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” Proverbs 22:29 ESV

Even the King needs a craftsman to carve the door to the throne room.  I have often found that my glorious moments in life are spent soldering a line set at the back of an Air-Conditioner, or changing the ballcock in a toilet. In the middle of the grind of broken things that makes up my existence, I am at peace with my role of fixing what I can.  Bob Dylan said it well.

Broken lines broken strings
Broken threads broken springs
Broken idols broken heads
People sleeping in broken beds
Ain’t no use jiving
Ain’t no use joking
Everything is broken.

Broken bottles broken plates
Broken switches broken gates
Broken dishes broken parts
Streets are filled with broken hearts
Broken words never meant to be spoken
Everything is broken.

Seem like every time you stop and turn around
Something else just hit the ground
Broken cutters broken saws
Broken buckles broken laws
Broken bodies broken bones
Broken voices on broken phones
Take a deep breath feel like you’re chokin’
Everything is broken.

Everytime you leave and go off someplace
Things fall to pieces in my face
Broken hands on broken ploughs
Broken treaties broken vows
Broken pipes broken tools
People bending broken rules
Hound dog howling bullfrog croaking
Everything is broken.

In the middle of everything broken, I find this deep intellectual hunger in my life.  I think that most of us speculate how our life would be different if we had a windfall of money, like winning the lottery.  For me I would spend a couple of years traveling the world.  I would like to spend days riding a train from Moscow to Vladivostok.  I would like to dive under the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.  I would like to roam for days in the British Museum.  I would like to haggle in the markets of Calcutta, and sample the salmon and capers in Norway.  I would like to slaughter a pig with the tribesman of New Guinea, and walk through the mountains of New Zealand, and then when I couldn’t bear the thought of one more plane ride.  I would go back to school.

I would take courses in digital logic, and philosophy.  I would study literature, and aerodynamics.  I would spend hours debating the nuances of history.  The height of my day would be lunch, sitting at a table of twenty something year olds, sharing my life as a fifty something year old.  In the wonderment of a younger generation I would be young again.  My mind desires some new knowledge in my life.  God painted the landscape of my world with the intellect of an artist with every color of a rainbow and the creative genius of the author of eternity.  I could spend a thousand lifetimes exploring the depths of his mind.

What I didn’t realize when I was in school, is that I had the one opportunity to enjoy education like a sixteen ounce rib-eye steak, and I spent much of my time in school taking this rich banquet in my mind in the same manner that I take a bitter large pill.  I choked it down with water, and swallowed it quickly to get it over.  It got in my system, and it affected my life, but the tragedy is that I could have enjoyed, and appreciated it so much better.  Today as I am writing, I still wonder where that stupid comma belongs in the sentence.  I would like to experience the glory of Rome.  I would like to analyze the battle plan of Lee.  I would like to find a comet inbound to cross the orbit of earth.

School was an endless stream of regurgitating outlines, writing uninspired papers, and trying to live up with constant deadlines.  Today I spend more time in concentrated thought trying to win an argument on Facebook than I used to spend producing one of the many papers required in my program.  Watching a freshman trying to produce a five page paper is like watching my wife give birth. (Not really, but you get the point)  I could write five pages on a lunch break at my age.  When I was in elementary school, I was a precocious bookworm.  Getting through the academics was never an issue, because I was usually about seven chapters ahead of the class out of boredom at the slow pace of the class.  When I was in college, I left tons of points on the table because I forgot why I was there, and like a pig just didn’t read the assignment.

My exhortation for my young friends is that you will wake up as a middle-aged person, and realize that decades of your life fly by like the snap of your fingers.  Four to ten years of your life spent in higher education will pass quickly, and it will be the only time in your life when it is acceptable to study till your brain falls out.  Don’t rush it.  It is like a savory steak.  Cut it into small pieces, smell the aroma, and slowly chew every bite.  Burp up the aftertaste, and remember the delight when that flavor hit your tongue.

It took most of my life to realize that the value of education is in the fact that you leave the experience educated.


2 thoughts on “A Student’s Tale

  1. Ehump83 says:

    I find myself not yet at middle age, but I feel the same, deep longing that you describe above. I have always admired the way your mind works (efficiently). The Lord has used you and your family in a mighty way in my life. Thank you for responding to His calling!

  2. thehidalgograincompany says:

    This was an enjoyable post to read. Echos some of my own thoughts and longings.

    There’s something very satisfying about a trade – or about creating or repairing. A satisfaction that I’ve never encountered while studying or reading.

    It’s interesting that the man who wrote a majority of our New Testament seems to have never given up his trade. Could it be that, besides making a living, there was some satisfaction in building and repairing that he couldn’t find anywhere else?

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