I first discovered the reformed faith in my mid-twenties. I went on a journey of discovery, learning from pastors and friends over coffee and dinner. I read and researched with the time I had, and I gained a strong foundation in theology through the discipleship of my local church. When I did have kids, I taught part time at a local community college. My classes were online, and I had great flexibility around them. When the kids were asleep or watching Thomas the Train, I could read, research and write. For years, I was able to slowly but surely add to my theological foundation. I had margin in my life to do so, and I worked to keep that margin, knowing that I would be better at everything else I did if I was growing daily in my understanding of the deep things of the Word of God.
Fast forward a few years. My boys are now 12 and 14. Though they don’t need me in the same way they did as toddlers, they still need me as an engaged parent as much as ever. But life circumstances have also funneled me down to taking a full-time teaching job. I love my job, but it, along with parenting my children and participating in our presbytery’s new church plant, has officially taken all the flexibility and margin out of my life.
I no longer have time or mental energy to research the types of commentaries or online theological discussions I used to find intriguing and informative. Yet, my need to live in light of the deep truths of the Word of God is as strong as ever. Now more than ever, I need to use the Scriptures accurately and understand correct theology. My lack of margin for reading and deeper study of the Scriptures has done nothing to eliminate my need of them.
Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. In essence, true theology is always intensely practical. It matters to the busiest of lives, no matter the vocation.
I need theology to break into the practical needs of my life. Theology, which is basically the study of the character and attributes of God, is the essence of the knowledge Proverbs 9:10 mentions. The reverential fear that comes from truly understanding God’s character sets us on a path of wisdom and understanding. Theology, simply put, IS practical. If our study of God hasn’t broken into the ins and outs of our busy daily lives, we may have not accessed real theology at all.
As the stresses of life press in on me, leaving me with little margin, my Scripture reading and study can be easily squeezed out along with the rest of the margins. It helps to remember I need Scripture for survival. Scripture isn’t something for the margins of my life. It is the lens through which I read the busy words on the paper. Scripture enables me to make sense of the chaos instead of being tossed about by it.
Lately, as I read Scripture simply for survival, my time in the Word is short and the questions I ask while reading it quite basic. Usually, the questions are easy enough that previous study from when I had more time helps me answer them. What was the context of the passage when it was written? Have promises it mentions already been fulfilled? Does it give promises that have a future fulfillment relevant to me? Were its instructions to a particular people for a particular time (no building stones in the middle of the river Jordan for me)? Are they universal for the Church today? Most of all, what do past promises fulfilled, future promises made, and current commands and instructions tell me about my God? How does knowing and understanding Him, and submitting to Him, give me practical guidance for navigating my busy life today?
Margins or no margins, time to study or not, theology still matters for us all. It is the beginning of wisdom. It is the foundation for understanding. It is essential to finishing the rat race before us. And it doesn’t have to be complicated.