I used to think that law school was just for learning law; that’s all I really wanted out of it. And now, a couple months in, I’ve learned some law. But I’ve also gotten some things that I didn’t bargain for. In particular, I’ve gotten a great deal of stress about grades and my future. And I’ve gotten this overwhelming feeling that my performance in school is what ultimately defines me as a person.
Obviously, I don’t like these things. I’ve prayed to God to take them away from me, and I still do. But whereas before I viewed them as entirely incidental to my law school experience, I’m starting to see them as an integral part of it. And that’s because, for me, law school isn’t just for learning law. It’s also about becoming a more devoted servant of Christ. God is using law school to bring my sinful tendencies out where I can see them and repent from them.
It’s hard not to view this as a nuisance, at best, and a curse, at worst. I want to pursue my studies unencumbered by these feelings of stress and inadequacy, so that I can do my very best. Repenting from idolatry is hard, and so is law school. Why do two such difficult things at the same time? Wouldn’t it be better to space them out? Sort of like how you might avoid taking multiple notoriously challenging courses during the same term.
Of course, in law school we take an absurd number of credits during the first term. There’s no time to warm up. You just get thrown into the deep end. At Harvard, we take 18 credits during the first term. But during your second and third years, you only need to average 12 credits per term to graduate. It’s quite imbalanced. But I think that’s by design. The shock has some sort of pedagogical function. And 1Ls that make it through the first term come out stronger than they were at the start.
Similarly, God is not going to wait until the easy times of our lives to teach us the things we need to learn. And he certainly does not let us hold onto our idols just a little longer, until a time that’s more convenient for us. I need to stop worshiping the idols of academic excellence and professional achievement and be a fully devoted servant of God. And the best time to repent from my idolatry is now.
What I said at the beginning of this post isn’t actually accurate. I don’t just want to learn law. I want to get excellent grades and graduate near the top of my class. I want to get one of the most competitive and prestigious jobs available. I want credentials that show people that I am important and brilliant and talented. And there is a part of me that wants those things to the exclusion of everything else, a part of me that worships them.
God is killing that part of me. Slowly, painfully putting it to death.
I don’t want to be captured by the pursuit of vain honors. I want to worship, honor, and serve God. He is using my law school experience to show me all the ways in which I foolishly choose vain honors over him. He is showing me the extent of my sinfulness in a way that I couldn’t see before. And by doing that, he is helping me to become more righteous and more faithful.
If law school makes me a more faithful servant of God, then it will be worth it, even if I don’t get the grades or the job that I want. Grades, jobs, honors—they are vapors, and pursuing them is striving after the wind. But God endures forever.