The Vocation of a Christian Scholar

May 6, 2014 by

Today’s guest post comes to us from Kirstie Rheinheimer, Taylor English grad, class of 2010. Thank you so much, Kirstie, for sharing your story!
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Kirstie Rheinheimer (center) with her Milford High School students

I often reflect on a book I read in Dr. Messer’s history class–The Vocation of the Christian Scholar by Richard T. Hughes. It explores the idea that as Christians, we are called to excel in whatever profession we choose and to learn how to express our faith and further the Gospel through our professions, even if it’s not in pastoral ministry, a para-church group, or a camp. I’m here to tell you that it’s really hard to do that, and—more importantly—it’s OK that it’s hard.

The fact that I have returned to my alma mater in Milford, Ohio to teach 10th grade was not the grandiose idea I had for myself. I thought I’d break out into the world after four amazing years at Taylor, to offer my gifts and talents in a preconceived place I had set up for myself. God saw right through that one. But the fact is that I do struggle because it’s easy to think how much more I could be doing or how many other places I could be.

At Taylor, I loved being a P.A. in Olson, building lifelong friendships and conversing about true and real things. I’ve been blessed with Christian women in my life, but it’s taken four years to get to the same depths I reached in a matter of months at Taylor.

As I finished my student teaching and was gearing myself up to teach high school kids how to love literature like I do, I was excited to be a witness through patience, and to affirm that they are valued as people. I thought for sure that teaching inner city like my student-teaching experience was where I needed to be…yet I’m back in white suburbia.

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So, what does it mean to be a Christian scholar at Milford High School, as a 26-year-old English teacher? It’s even more difficult to keep that passion and drive that came so easily in an environment that fostered it. Some of my students have broken lives, selfishness, and defiance that makes me want to say, “Fine, do it yourself. I’m done.” It’s a world that can be full of polarized ideas and pointing fingers. And for me, it has taken, and will continue to take, time, discomfort, and effort, all accompanied by a sense of whiplash and self-doubt, to feel like any difference has been made or any purpose has been fulfilled.

As hard as it is, though, the Lord promises that “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart–I have overcome the world.” I need to remember those words, so much that it’s hanging on the wall in my apartment so I see it every day. The vocation of a Christian scholar is often not glamorous, ideal, or tidy. It is difficult. Yet, because it comes with communion with Christ, it’s truly rewarding. If I pray to be salt and light in the everyday interactions in my workplace and live by faith, it has the potential to draw me closer to Jesus. And, when I’m not so clouded by the challenge, I realize how blessed I am to have a job where I have the opportunity to be a Christian scholar.

It means that instead of taking the easy way out, I’ll invest my time into completing lessons or paperwork with excellence. It means I may have to ignore the politics of the Common Core and endless testing that remove the joy from teaching, and instead focus on teaching students how to understand and make connections through literature that matters to them as people. It means I will take the time to truly enjoy my students and challenge their thinking, like when my Shakespeare students get so fired up about why on earth Lady Anne would marry Richard III. And it means that I must challenge even my own thinking—when I get nostalgic and reflect on what has been, what I might be doing, or where I could be—I must realize that God knows what He’s doing in bringing me to this place right now, and to fulfill my vocation as a Christian scholar is to be a steward of the intelligence, opportunities, and joy that have been set before me.

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I will be thankful, working with them in the classroom and cheering for them at basketball games and band contests. And I will be thankful for the fact that my career involves talking to students about their “proma” (prom drama), explaining why Heart of Darkness really is awesome, and discussing why the line “Check yoself before you wreck yoself” is not an appropriate attention-getter for an essay. This, too, is the vocation of a Christian scholar.

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Kirstie Rheinheimer graduated from Taylor in 2010 and lives in Cincinnati. She teaches English 10 and Shakespeare at Milford High School. She enjoys sandwiches, cooking, and drinking decaf coffee with hazelnut creamer. Also, she keeps up with Castle, Sherlock, and Downton Abbey when she isn’t reading Gothic mysteries.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing. I would be really interested in learning why “The Heart of Darkness” is awesome.

  2. Good stuff, Kirsti–you’re right, though we don’t always know God’s plan for our lives and are fairly convinced He must have it wrong at times :), experience has taught me that, weirdly, He pretty much knows what He’s doing! I also started out my career as a high school English teacher, and those years were invaluable to me in my present teaching position. I learned SO MUCH in those 4 years in the high school classroom, not only about my subjects, but how to interact with people. Keep up the good work!

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