Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What's your major?

“So you’re leaving for college soon.”

“Yep. Time to amass an unbelievable amount of debt while using up any discretionary cash my parents still have.”

“That’s great! I know you’ll enjoy paying it back the rest of your life. What’s your major?”


“What exactly does that mean?”

“It means I don’t have the foggiest idea of what I’m doing.”

“Ah…well, have a great semester!”

While some 18 year olds know exactly what they want—pre-med followed by medical school with a specialization in inter-species organ transplants—more and more students are entering college Undeclared. (I’d provide a statistic, but I’d have to make it up.) I don’t worry about them; they will figure it out by trial and error, even if it means squeezing a 4 year degree into 5 years.

No. I worry about people who go Undeclared not through college, but through LIFE. All that can be added to the name and dates on their tombstones is HUH? 

And I worry about people who put their major focus on minor issues and activities, and little or no focus on major issues and activities, because I keep drifting into that category. I suffer from MMS. Major Minor Syndrome. (Also called MMS, Minor Major Syndrome)

I regularly awake feeling less than cheery. Why? Interrupted sleep…caffeine deprivation…unsolved and unsolvable problems…sin nature…all of the above? This morning I made my way to the piano and a book of easy to play worship songs. We Fall Down…How Great is Our God…In Christ Alone…Chris Tomlin’s adaptation of Amazing Grace. I played the notes and mused on the lyrics, occasionally trying to sing along. (I usually can’t play and sing at the same time. I’m not Twila Paris.)

As I played, I realized I’ve been (once again) majoring on minors. The songs reminded me that as a declared follower of Jesus the Messiah, my major focus should be the greatness and love of God my Father. The mercy and grace given to me in the death and resurrection of Jesus my Lord. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit my Counselor. 

And my response of love and obedience.

Jesus told his followers, “In my father’s house are many mansions.” So do I focus on the reality of the mansion—a fabulous future in God’s presence—or on the color of the trim? Green or blue? Yellow or white? Yep. You’ll often find me in the spiritual equivalent of Wal Mart’s paint department, obsessing over bookmark sized cards embellished with shades of colors.

Fellow MMS sufferers, can we earn a degree by majoring in minors? Do students who fail to focus on what’s important ever achieve magna cum laude?

My man Paul—some call him St. Paul or the Apostle Paul—had this all figured out. 

First he spent some years majoring in minors:  his racial purity, his memberships, his impeccable behavior, his nastiness to anyone who disagreed. Then his academic adviser called him in. Knocked him on his tuckus. I think the adviser knew all Paul could become and couldn’t stand to see God’s gifts to Paul wasted on minors. He helped Paul choose a great major and stick to it. 

(You can read a more traditional account of this in Acts 9, Acts 26, and Philippians 3. Use www.biblegateway.com if you don’t have a Bible handy.)

Paul declared his major in a letter to his friends in the Philippian church:  I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. (Philippians 3:10 – 11, The Message)

Maybe due to his own experience with MMS, Paul makes a great life coach. He encourages me to major in love and minor in spiritual gifts. Major in other people and minor in myself. Major in gratitude and minor in grumpiness…no, drop grumpiness altogether…don’t even audit.

If you detect my MMS symptoms showing, don’t hesitate to ask me, “What’s your major?”

But please be gentle about it. And I’ll be gentle with you.

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