“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matt 6:24a).” This is an important truth to remember during midterm season.
The Truth About Midterm Season
There’s a terrible secret about college life, which upper-class students know and first-years will soon discover: Midterm Season never ends. The phrase “midterm season” implies that academic life goes on as normal for the first half of the term, then there’s a spike in work for a week or two, then things go back to normal—until another spike occurs before finals period.
In reality midterm season is not a spike. It’s more like an extended plateau. The academic load picks up a few weeks into the year and never lets up. Midterms are staggered throughout the quarter/semester, interspersed with projects and papers. I have had professors who had the audacity to dispense two “mid”-terms—I don’t even know where to begin about how wrong that is! The academic intensity persists until the end—or, as it sometimes feels like, the cliff—of finals period.
If midterm season were just a spike we could hunker down for a week or two, get things done, and recommit energy to our other priorities. There are natural rhythms in life in which we need to be single-minded about accomplishing a particular task and temporarily setting others aside. But the never-ending nature of midterm season means that we are in danger of living that way for the majority of our time in college.
Have We Been Mastered?
Jesus’ teaching about having multiple masters is true not only about money (wealth is named in the second half of that verse as a potential master). We can allow many things to master us, and midterms are no exception. Our responsibilities to the midterm master can preoccupy our thoughts and define our reality. As opposed to being people who take tests and write papers, we can become test-takers and paper-writers—we become people whose lives are primarily defined by these realities.
We perhaps entered the year with hopes of what might happen spiritually—ministries we wanted to be deeply invested in, spiritual disciplines we wanted to commit to, and people we wanted to reach out to with the good news. But in midterm season the time and energy required for these pursuits create conflict with our other master. The “hatred” of our heavenly masters is experienced as guilt and defensiveness about external (or internal) voices calling us back to these commitments that we once held dear. Have you ever found yourself in that place? Are you there right now?
What can we do to protect (or release) ourselves from this tyrannical midterm master? How do we retain our role as masters over our academic responsibilities, and not the other way around? Simply put, we need to perform “acts of rebellion”. Acts that declare to us and to our midterm master that we are not his servants, we are not his slaves. We need to do things that declare our allegiance to our true master in Heaven, and make choices that reflect our devotion to him and him alone.
What do acts of rebellion look like? They can take different forms, but they involve a commitment to redirect time and energy towards God’s other purposes in your life; things you came into the year hoping to be about. It could mean committing every week during this season to have a spiritual conversation with someone who does not yet know Christ. It could mean committing to keep quiet times or Sabbath. It could mean committing to go to your small group every week, or praying daily for the needs of people other than yourself.
Ideally it would be something that you could commit to with a group. You could discuss this scripture and the midterm master with your small group or leadership team, and think of commitments you could make together—it’s much easier to rebel as a group than to rebel alone.
Don’t let midterm season master you. The reality is that the pressures of life after college (e.g. in graduate school, the workplace, etc.) become even more intense. Learning to rebel against this master will prepare you to stand firm against much more powerful ones. You have one master (who fortunately happens to be the master of your midterms!) and he is an all-powerful yet infinitely loving God who seeks your best. Declare your allegiance to him during midterm season and watch how he will work in and through your life.