6/02/2006

The Future and the Fatherhood of God

I'll be finishing up my Master's in Computer Science at UCI in the Fall. This was a little unexpected. I had thought it would be another quarter or two, because a few required classes hadn't been offered yet. But it turns out that I can substitute them rather than waiting around to take them.

Strangely enough, the realization was a little scary. The post-Masters stage of my life is just around the corner, and I have to decide, well, what I'm going to do. Beg Google to hire me, pick up, and move to Mountan View? Stay on at my current job for a while? Look for work closer to home? Stay at UCI and get a PhD?

I've known for quite a while that, if I could, I'd stay for the PhD. The problem is that there's really no obvious way to pay for it. PhD students have their tuition and fees paid by the university, and get a monthly stipend. But the stipend is just barely enough for one person to live on. It is certainly not enough to support a family on. So I hadn't thought much about it. After all, my options were: 1) stay at my current well-paying job; 2) find another well-paying job; 3) quit my job and work for next to nothing for the priveledge of earning a degree which will also, by the way, overqualify me for future jobs.

Nevertheless, it was never quite out of my mind. So, one evening a few weeks ago, I asked Emily what she would think about me getting a PhD - provided we could find a way to pay for it. Rather than saying "you are nuts!", she immediately started budgeting. By the end of the evening we had figured that, given what we had in savings plus my stipend plus a little bit of magic, we could get by for almost two years - and with my coursework out of the way, a PhD in two years is doable.

I don't exactly have a word from the Lord on this - that is, I'm not hearing "get a PhD" loud and clear. But it does seem like the last 8 years or so of my life have been pointing in that direction. In high school I was really interested in biology and computer science... and I'm still really interested in biology and computer science. Plus, Emily feels like it might be what we're supposed to do, too. At any rate, none of my other options have the same appeal (though Google would be pretty cool), and they would be temporary anyway. As much as I love developing software, it is not something I want to do full-time in the long term. So taking another development job would just be defering my questions, not answering them.

Emily and I are trying to look into the future, and not seeing very far. I'll be finishing the Masters this fall, then starting the PhD in the fall of '07 (assuming UCI re-admits me). After the PhD, then what? A postdoc maybe. And then? I have some vague ideas, but nothing concrete. And how exactly are we going to put food on the table again? It feels disturbing, scary, and insecure. But... I think that is ok. Since Emily and I had Jonathan, I've come to see the church more as a family than I had before. I'm relating to God more as a son to a father, and less as a servant to his lord (which used to be my primary metaphor). And the fatherhood of God for his children has profound implications. In George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind, the main character Diamond once wanders into a bad part of town. Just as he is about to be robbed, a policeman shows up and saves him. "You should be more careful", the policeman warns. "What if I hadn't been here?" "But you were", Diamond replies.

This is how children operate. They simply expect to be taken care of. Children never worry about what they are going to eat or wear or where they are going to sleep. They just expect to be provided for. And they are.

This is what understanding the Fatherhood of God means, I think. It means expecting to be provided for. It means doing things that would be foolish if you are the only one looking out for yourself. It means depending on events that seem contingent and uncertain to the rest of the world. It means listening to the words of Jesus:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

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