Letter #11: Put Down the Books

by Jonathan Haefs

Dear Jonathan,

I love hearing all your stories about the new friends you’ve made over the last year and a half. Some of them sound almost as crazy as the guys who became my brothers during seminary. I’m so thankful you have found our talks about friendship helpful.

However, I have found myself wondering about your other relationships as of late…specifically, your family. In your last letter, you described your study habits to me as if you were proud of how much time you have dedicated to school. Disciplined study is a great thing, but Jonathan…

book-pileThere comes a time when you need to put down the books.

You have two small children who desperately need their father right now (and always)! You have a wife who does not need to feel like a single parent or a widow! Don’t short-change them! If something has to be short-changed…make it seminary.

Taking a lower grade is worth taking time for your family.

During my seminary years, one of the most painful phrases I remember regularly coming off the lips of my daughter was, “Papa has to do school?” I have been so pleased to strike those words from her vocabulary!

Don’t get me wrong…I am not saying that school is not a priority. You could always spend more time with your family and that could lead to a total neglect of your studies. So what are you to do? I would advise you to sit down with your wife and have an honest conversation about priorities and time.

Talk through what each of you feel is an appropriate amount of time to devote to school and how much time must be set-aside for family. This could look different throughout a semester (especially during finals), but even having this conversation will show your bride how much you value her and your kiddos. Make sure your schedule leaves you both feeling like…

Seminary is a priority, but it is not THE priority.

I remember several times when I  put down my pen, shut the book, or closed my computer and went downstairs to wrestle with my kids on the living room floor or had one last conversation with my bride before she drifted off to sleep. If I could go back, I would not trade those moments for more studying…in fact…I’d probably study less in order to have more of those moments.

The health of my marriage and family has affected my pasturing more than seminary ever could. This is not just true for me, but for every pastor. Remember that Jonathan!

Give yourself to your studies. Work hard. Study to show yourself approved. Learn to rightly divide the Word of truth so that you have no reason to be ashamed. Yet…always, always, always remember…

There comes a time when you need to put down the books.

Grace and Peace,


*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.