May 7, 2015 GTU Graduation Talk: José Balcells, Ph.D. Biblical Studies
I want to thank Deans Holder and Kook for the opportunity to address you this afternoon.
I also want to thank my dissertation committee: Professors Aaron Brody, John Endres, and Benjamin Porter.
I am grateful to many others, but must I move on…
What I am about to share with you is more of a reflection, as a friend… of our journey, as a graduate student, and a student of life itself. I say “our journey” because it has included my wife, Carole and our three children. All willing to venture out with me into challenging, but rewarding seas.
What would life be like if we had stayed in the safety of our anchorage? I am fairly sure that:
1. First, I would probably still be working at a comfortable job as CEO of my own technology company making good money.
2. Second, I would not have started a graduate degree in biblical studies back in 2004.
3. Lastly, we would still be living in Washington State, and this would have saved us the stress of doing multiple moves with the whole family. Did you know that moving is one of the leading causes of divorce? I believe it after doing three of them in the last few years!
Jim, my father-in-law, shared with me a piece of advice when I was contemplating God’s purpose for my life. He said something like this: “It’s difficult to steer a parked car. We need to take a first step and God will guide things from there.” As a sailor, I would rephrase this by saying: “It’s difficult to navigate a sailboat when the sails are down. We need to work first on raising our sails, on trimming the lines, and on being ready for whatever wind God sends our way.” The wind may change in our journey, and we need to be willing to adjust our sails, and possibly even steer a different course.
Why do we keep our sails down? Why do we not move forward? …I believe that in many occasions it is because of fear:
• Fear of the unknown
• Fear of failing
• Fear of looking odd or different in front of others
What would our lives be like if we did not give into our fears? I believe that God has a purpose for each of our lives, using our passions, talents, and life experiences. It takes courage and calculated risks. Yes, we need to know about, and be prepared for the oceans before we venture out, but at the right time, we must be willing to raise our sails, and then let the power of the wind take us to where we were destined to go. God has prepared us to reach our full potential, yet we sometimes choose to stay in the safety of the harbor. I believe that if we focus on a God-centered purpose, He will guide and provide all along the way. There will be struggles, but we will see Him in action, if we look for Him.
I look back and I see God’s hand all along the way of our journey:
• I see God’s hand…When we struggled in deciding whether to sell our company and to leave that safety. Others said that it would not sell given the economic conditions in 2007 when markets dropped. We decided to list it, and God brought an investor that paid the maximum amount of the business valuation
• I see God’s hand… When we were torn with taking Christopher, our oldest son, out of a great school in Washington as he was entering his sophomore year in high school. Carole and I talked about not moving unless we could find a comparable school in San Jose. Well, he got admitted as a transfer student in a highly competitive school. Recently, Christopher reflected on how significant and positive the move had been for him
• I see God’s hand… Likewise, when we were heart-broken with having to take our two daughters, Ana and Katrina, out of their schools, and we wondered if we would get admissions for them so late in the semester. I vividly remember calling a highly competitive school in San Jose and being told that there were two openings: one for 8th grade and the other for 4th grade. The two grades needed for Ana and Katrina. At the end Carole said something like: “Well, it appears that this is what we need to do.”
What if we listen to that voice that keeps coming back with daring ideas and unusual dreams?
Odd projects, rare people, new frontiers. Are we willing to explore these unknown oceans? For me there was a big aha this last summer at the Hispanic Theological Initiative conference, as we engaged with a partner in a brainstorming exercise putting fears aside. We discovered how there are non-traditional areas where God might be calling us to serve that we would not contemplate otherwise. I would encourage you to do the same with someone you trust and find supportive. For me, these dreams may mean teaching Hebrew on a sailboat, or doing archaeology in the Mediterranean. I started testing some of these non-traditional ideas. I recently taught a Hebrew course on Jonah which brought to life the text. Can you imagine how exciting it would be to teach this course on a sailboat? … Minus the throwing a person overboard part.
We must be willing to explore these dreams and ideas. If they are meant to be, the wind will come to fill our sails.
Today, I do not know if I will end up teaching Hebrew on a sailboat or doing archaeology in the Mediterranean Sea. And that is ok, that is not the main point. The crucial part is this:
• Are we willing to listen when we sense God’s calling?
• Are we willing to raise our sails without knowing where the wind will take us?
• Are we willing to endure the challenging, but rewarding journey that may come as we allow God to steer our course?
My friends, it is my hope that our answer would be YES.