Monday, March 03, 2008

Thesis Miracles?

On Friday afternoon I finally finished what has been almost a two year project and an even longer dream. I have always wanted to try to hash out and explain what I found so enlightening and meaningful in my favourite novel, Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, and lo and behold, here at seminary I was given the opportunity to do just that and to do it for academic credit.

I would honestly have been surprised two years ago if you told me I'd ever get a chance to do such a thing. In fact, if you told me all that has happened would happen I would likely not have believed you. I also would not have believed that God (let alone any one else) would have cared about my silly dream. But I'd have been proved wrong.

There are several things that happened that I thought were just so uncanny and I am just really grateful for the encouragements and signs of grace that they were. The first was two years ago when out of the blue my wife suggested Briercrest as the school of choice. First person we met on campus besides the admissions guy was the prof who would eventually agree to supervise my thesis and lead a reading group I love, and basically teach and inspire me a great many times.

Then last summer, I was wondering how I'd ever get this thesis done as well as my classes in the time I'd allotted myself. It was looking near impossible. And the wierdest thing happened. So weird I've never heard of it before, not at universities, not anywhere, least of all at an evangelical Bible college. The English prof was going to teach a class on Chesterton. I was in.

This prof was great. The class was very helpful. Credit hours did double duty as thesis prep. I got to talk through stuff with 20 other college students instead of study alone. This prof even gave me a chance to be a teacher's assistant for another English class which was very helpful in my own prep work for this literary work I was doing. Amazing provision, I thought.

Then there's my friend here who had read every book I was reading in prep for my project and was always able to give feedback and great ideas. He even read a book for me over Christmas just to have a discussion with me about one idea. All he got out of it was a footnote.

Then there's the day I was at Starbucks and stumbled onto a conversation about the book I was reading. A guy had written a paper on it and was reading it aloud right there. I got to listen in. Again, another footnote. A crucial point actually. One I forgot come writing time and was somehow (miraculously?) reminded of the very morning of the day the thesis was due. Wrote it in and you wouldn't even know it was a last minute addition. Without it I might have had a flop on my hands.

Then there's the half a dozen times where I wished I had time to read a whole resource but the demands of time meant I had to skim it, and my eyes would find just the nuggets I needed. Or the book I picked up on what I thought was an only loosely related topic and there they have a page dedicated to talking about Chesterton, who to them was only an obscure English writer and should never have come up at all, I would have thought.

I'm not trying to say my thesis was divinely appointed or anything. But there were these things that would happen that were just so encouraging.

Or what about when I decided on a whim to ask the Pres of the American chesterton Society to read the thing? He said he might. So I asked on another whim if the school would have him here to speak. Didn't think they could or would. They did. I don't think they promise to do this all the time but things worked out this time and my prof pulled it off. He comes in two weeks.

Or what about the Saturday's my family gave me up to study this last month? Or the people in town who'd babysit at key moments or give us supper when we were swamped?

Or what about the guy I met only once in Minneapolis who emailed me three times with very helfpul points? Or the friend from college who did the same? Or the guy in an online "God debate" who pushed me to wrestle with some important stuff that I might otherwise have taken for granted and not properly thought through. There were tons of these times where I had points swimming in my head that needed to get on paper and then some chance conversation or advice from a peer or teacher would click things into place. It may seem like writing is an isolated endeavour (and much of it is), but it couldn't happen well without community.

Don't get me wrong, I worked my butt off for this thing. But I had help. I'm not saying its the best thing ever written, or hyping it, I just have to be grateful when there's something to be grateful for.

I don't know. They're all little things I guess. To anyone else, meaningless. To me, blessings.

Now that it's over I'm not sure what to do. Maybe I'll write something worthwhile in the blog again sometime soon.


Tony Tanti said...

Jon, I couldn't be more proud of you for what you've done here. This is anything but a silly dream.

I can point to more than a few people for whom Chesterton shaped or even saved their faith. He is an underappreciated Christian thinker and you are doing all of Christian thought a great service with this study.

Kudos and Congrats to you. I can't wait to sit down and read it.

jon said...

thanks bro

matthew a. wilkinson said...


joel said...