Thursday, June 25, 2009

Destination Aberdeen

So this is Aberdeen, Scotland . . .



Our flights are booked. We're on the cusp of visa and other applications. We're sorting our belongings. I'm heading over in just over a month to try to lease a flat and find a primary school for my boys. Still some hoops to jump through, but this is really happening.

I've been reflecting on the journey to this point and my head reels with all the little moments and decisions that have added up to this moment:

Spring of 2008 and the overwhelming and humbling affirmations of people I respect who said maybe I should chase down the dream after all . . .

Summer: Still not sure, but the jobs aren't materializing . . .

Fall: We move, hunker down to prep for twins, and I start to check out schools. Put up a map on the wall to keep track of 'em all. Started with a list of something like 26. . .



Scanned more faculty pages than I care to recall for connections that jumped out. After educated guesses in some cases and painstaking research in others, got down to a list of a dozen hopefuls or so. Some stabs in the dark, some "safer" bets, some near, some far. Started crafting two research proposals and emailing professors with my stupid ideas. . .

Somehow, after pouring over the possibilities, the list gets down to six. Am I an idiot or did I just apply at six schools, none of which were in Canada? And did someone say Waco Texas? Seemed a good lead.

Since three of the schools are in the U.S., its GRE time. Show up for the Graduate Record Examination needing scores of 600, 600, and 4/6 at least. After emptying all my pockets for the exam proctor (I kid you not), I sit down and hammer it out. I do make the 600 goals, barely (somehow doing better in math than language), but leave sentence fragments for final paragraphs on both essays!

Left horribly disappointed in myself but decided not to retake it. Pretty expensive retake, and we'll let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps this is where the journey ends. . .

In the meantime, fall turns to winter. Babies. Two of them! Its a blur for awhile after that. . .

Spring 2009 and the letters start to come. Turns out that despite a 5.5 on the essays I still needed better marks on the GRE. The U.S. shut me down unanimously.

But next thing I know I get an offer from Edinburgh.
Then King's College London.
Then the University of Aberdeen.

Edinburgh's offer is a bit iffier but London and Aberdeen offer me world renowned supervisors. Anyone want to offer some money? That would sure make things easier! Apparently not.

At first I'm thinking London and a dissertation on Chesterton. But after awhile, Aberdeen is looking better in every area, albeit academically a (personally) more challenging a topic.

And then comes the fateful day: I stare at the page for awhile before finally rejecting the offer from King's London and going whole-hog for Scotland. Its one thing to feel good about a decision. Its another to finally close the deal!

Did I really just say no to the chance to study natural theology under Alister McGrath in one of my favourite cities in the world, with GK Chesterton as the focal point, and a minor scholarship to boot? Apparently so. Just praying this is one of those "roads less travelled" moments. . .

That's not to say the Scotland option is not awesome. It is. In fact, the more I investigate what I have got myself into the more I see the opportunity as staggering. Though I'd hardly heard of them even three years ago, it turns out that a potential dissertation on Karl Barth's Doctrine of Reconciliation and its ramifications for the local church under Professor John Webster fulfills a deeply held passion and growing conviction of mine that i just have to study.

I'm so thankful for a wife who not only gets that, but supports it.

So, here we are. Summer 2009. Destination: King's College Aberdeen:



Still feeling over my head. Gotta learn German over the summer, and frenetically catch up on the swarm Barth scholarship going on.

And I won't lie to you: There are moments I wonder about that alternate plane of reality in which I've gone the other way, or one of the million other ways that I could have gone along the way. . .

But this is the challenge before us. God I hope you are in this. . .

Here it is then: The unknown. The promising. The daunting. The romantic. The frightening. The stressful. The dream. The reality so surreal. The hoops to jump through yet and the day coming oh so fast.


Fall 2010?: Did you know you could take a 3-D walk down the streets of Aberdeen on Google maps? Makes Union Street seems so close, and yet still so far. . .

11 comments:

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

What can I say?

Congratulations! Aberdeen sounds extraordinary.

Anonymous said...

Jon (and Angie): your courage is astounding; your wisdom is profound; your perseverance is inspiring. And your faith...well that's what this journey is all about isn't it. "God I hope you are in this..." is a wonderfully transparent glimpse into your soul. May His blessing be upon this huge move and may He go before you in this whole deal.

dguretzki said...

All I can say, Jon, is that I'm bursting with pride for you! Yahooooo!!!

nathan davies said...

kick aberdeen's ass jon.

Dale Harris said...

I'm so happy for you, Jon and Angie. Can't wait to read your book... and/or your 10th book. You're the kind of honest and deep thinker the church needs more of. Blessings. DH

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

"You're the kind of honest and deep thinker the church needs more of."

Exactly.

Dustin Resch said...

Congrats Jon. You sure seem to have the right perspective going into this thing. I'm looking forward to all that you are going to teach us!

Trev said...

I think you got in on account of your last name ;-)

I kid, I kid. Seriously man, congrats and here's to an unforgettable phase of you and your family's life!

jon said...

thanks all. in the face of an almost crippling fear of the unknown, your encouragements mean more than you can know.

Tony Tanti said...

Jon, I know you'll do your very best and I know for you that is never anything short of great.

I concur with all the above comments and I'm excited to see you taking this step because I firmly believe you could be an influential thinker in Christianity, one that we need desperately.

All the best on your final preparations, see you soon.

ErinOrtlund said...

Can't wait to hear all about the adventure! So excited for you guys!