One of the things I’m doing for sabbatical is (finally) taking time for two years of more formal training in biblical Hebrew. It’s been on my to-do list for years and I simply haven’t had an excuse to make it happen. This sabbatical gave me that excuse. With all the travel I do to Israel, I’ve also wanted to get a better handle on modern Hebrew, so my teacher is helping me with that, as well.
On the surface, this is about me continuing my education, continuing my personal development, and growing as a healthy human being and professional. It’s good to learn and it’s good to push myself in areas relevant to who I am and what I do every day. Simple enough.
However, what strikes me frequently in this experience is how I have already changed. I am simply a wildly different person today than I was twenty years ago. I haven’t taken a college class with homework since 2005, and I was a different person back then. I found all my identity and my worth in my academic performance. I hadn’t yet learned about my compulsive obsession with planning and control. I was the student who got the syllabus on orientation week and did every assignment I could in the first two weeks — read every text, wrote every paper, prepared whatever projects I could. I had all my homework done days and weeks before it was due. It was about short bursts of work so the anxiety was lower through the rest of the year.
And performance… let me tell you. Perfect scores were my goal. High A’s were acceptable, low A’s were a disappointment (to myself), and anything less than that was unacceptable. I was a weirdly driven and perfectionistic student.
Well, since then, I’ve learned a lot about myself. Therapy has taught me a lot over the last decade about my anxiety and how I’ve managed it in the past and the impact it’s had on others around me. I have a different emotional relationship with myself and how I do life every day.
My homework today? Well, I don’t always have it done on time; most of it is done and done well, but it’s certainly not the same “energy” I had years ago. In my class this last week, my teacher gave me two B’s on my homework and I didn’t even cringe; I kind of nodded and shrugged. Yup.
Now, I know this sounds ridiculous to many of you. I can hear you chuckling at me and wondering if I’m kidding. I’m not. Marty Solomon in 2003 would never have imagined a world where I was behind on my homework and content with a B grade on an assignment in biblical Hebrew. The old version of myself would have told you that I had given up on life. I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s who I was.
But it’s not who I am anymore.
As I spend time listening during my sabbatical, I also find this more encouraging than I would expect. I am changing. I have changed a lot more than I was realizing in the passing moments and years. I think we all do. Maybe more or less depending on our intention and discipline to certain things, but we are dynamic creatures and we are transformed for better or for worse. I think I’m learning to celebrate the transforming work God has done in me.
I would tell my old self that, in fact, I haven’t given up on life. I’ve found so much more life than the old me could have ever imagined. I’m healthier today and my relationships are something God is using in positive ways — ways I simply wasn’t letting Him work in back then. I’ve made some choices about what’s important and what I’m building with my life. Some things are gold, silver, and precious stones; other things are wood and straw (check out 1 Corinthians 3 for more on this). And I like it.
And I have every reason to believe that this process continues. Twenty-one years from now, I’ll be thinking back to my 2022 self and thinking of how much more life I’ve continued to find. May it be so.