2014 has been a monumental year. It was one of the most trying years of my life, and there were a number of low points (like the passing away of my dearly loved Grandmother, who would have been 97 today).
But the year has also been full of wonders and joys. Here is a list…
Completing the PhD. I began entertaining an academic vocation in the year 2000. It was my final year in the MDiv program at Beeson Divinity School. A handful of close friends were contemplating the same path with greater seriousness. I lacked strong enough conviction that I was on the right track to begin applying to doctoral programs. The road that eventually led to a finished PhD over the span of the past 14 years has been crooked, notched, forked, potholed, at times closed down, and often riddled with detours. Even after finally beginning a full-time PhD program in Durham, England, I came close to pulling the plug. The costs were so great; the circumstantial stress too overpowering. Cutting my losses and heading Stateside often seemed the best course. My wife nobly urged me on.
And I finished. The viva went as well as any viva could go. I graduate next week.
Beginning an Academic Post. Each year the Society of Biblical Literature issues a jobs report. It is sobering reading material for those already wondering if they should cut their losses and flee PhD programs in biblical studies. As church participation wanes and the economy constricts, academic institutions are disinclined to keep offering full-time posts to people who have spent the past 3–5 years studying covenantal nomism in Deutero-Pauline letters or early Jewish apocalyptic literature.
So a job offer is an enormous blessing. And since the post is in Durham, the Byers family did not have to endure another sudden move. My job title is a mouthful—I work at Cranmer Hall at St John’s College, Durham University as Free Church Tutor and Teaching Fellow. My task is to develop and administer a new ministerial training program for prospective church leaders in the North East of England.
The UK Release of TheoMedia. I was pleasantly surprised and to receive news from The Lutterworth Press that they wanted to publish a UK version of my latest book. (The only difference between this newer version of TheoMedia and the US original is an index). I am hoping to plan a book release party soon.
Multiple Adventures in Europe and the Lake District. The completion of the PhD and the job offer were events that together signaled the end of what may have been the most anxious and intensely challenging season of my life. It is tremendously satisfying to report the two events above because for most of the year they seemed to be impossibilities. A PhD thesis never feels finished. An academic job hunt in the current climate seems so futile. The futility and unending nature of these stressful enterprises darkened every week of 2014 until some relief began to emerge in August.
But punctuating this season—a culmination of so many long years of such hard work—were some travel opportunities I still struggle to believe actually happened. Miranda and I went to Florence and Rome for a quick getaway to celebrate our anniversary. There was a jaunt to York and the Lake District with Dave and Dacia Nelson, a wonderful visit to the States for a family wedding, plus a quick journey with my oldest son to Nottingham and Sherwood Forest. Over the summer we took a road trip through England and France, the likes of which could almost rival the imagination of the National Lampoon screenwriters.
The most meaningful getaway, however, was a week long stay in the Lake District. I had just submitted my doctoral thesis and received word that we had found renters for our house in the States. Miranda gave me a couple of days free for hiking before she brought the kids over to join me. That was the most cathartic, freeing week I can remember since finishing the ThM at Duke seven years ago. A chunk of heart will always be lodged somewhere between the Langdale Pikes and the River Brathay.
Happy New Year, readers and friends…