For the Living of These Days—A Word from Carol Harston

What endeavor is before you that has you praying, “Grant me wisdom, grant me courage, for the living of these days?” It might be a project at work or a challenge at home. For my own personal life, the endeavor before me in this season is to complete my thesis for Duke Divinity’s Doctor of Ministry degree. My thesis explores the concept of traumatizing theology (a God who shames, banishes, and condemns) and its effect upon people. When people who have grown up with an ideal of religious purity enforced by a punishing God, there comes a time in one’s adult life when it can no longer be endured. What are those breaking points? What leads those people to pursue a theology of real grace and love for all? How can the church be a healing church for survivors of traumatizing theology?

I began research last January, conducted focus groups in the fall, and I am now in the process of writing. Between now and March 1, I must write 30,000-40,000 words in order to submit a final draft to my advisor. In order to achieve this deadline, I am entering a five-week period in the office where I am slimming down my responsibilities. I am dispersing tasks to ongoing programs, pausing the pursuit of new initiatives, and scheduling non-urgent meetings for after March 1. I will have a short break from the thesis in March before receiving final edits from my advisor by March 29 and submitting the final product to Duke by April 21 to graduate May 12.

Even while I place a “pause” on my office productivity, you are continually on my heart as my research is built around the data generated through eleven focus groups with 61 members of our adult Bible study classes. My hours are spent seeking to be a good steward of your stories, questions, and theological reflection. It is a great privilege to write this thesis and tell your story of a pursuit of a larger, expansive view of God where love is available for all and grace is expected within the church.

I am knee-deep in the spiritual discipline of seeking to be content with the day’s work (while I still see the many, many miles to go) and trusting in the God who leads me (while I worry if all the ideas will come together coherently and on time). I covet your prayers as I attempt to get this all done while still working, parenting, and resting (as I have to regularly remember that I am not a machine but a human person who still requires Sabbath even while working furiously). I am grateful for your support throughout this whole process and I await the day when this degree is framed on the wall and I can return my energies fully to our life together. Until then, grant us wisdom and grant us courage for the living of these days!