(创28)雅各许愿与一个现代见证 (Genesis 28) Jacob’s Vow and A recent story

(English version: 中文版在英文版后面) Regarding Jacob’s vow in Genesis 28, a brother shared the following:

One of the important reasons why I fear Gd is because His deeds are so precise and faithful to me that I dare not be ambiguous to Him. I’ve experienced a lot of “coincidences” that are very important to me personally. There are many things I keep in my diary throughout the years, and there are many personal anniversaries that remind me of His deliverance and grace. Regarding the following things, because the development process spanned several years, and they started more than 20 years ago, my memory may not be perfectly accurate.

I think of Christmas Eve 2000, my wish under the stars on a cold night after a church event. That year was the fourth year of my assistant professor’s six-year tenure clock. If the six-year period expires (in summer 2002), if one fails to qualify for tenure (unlimited-term position), one will have to leave in the seventh year. Our school’s tenure conditions are very strict: one has to prove that it is impossible to find a stronger replacement for him in the same field.

At that time, I hadn’t made up my mind to be baptized, and my understanding of the Bible was relatively rudimentary, so I made a vow. I made a wish and said: If Gd allows me to pass the tenure review before May 1, 2002, I will decide to be baptized.

After that, I was busy with other things. At the beginning of the new year (2001), one of my Jewish colleagues complained that our college did not support the development of our department, and suggested that I apply to move to another school. The news got out, and an Ivy League university in the east encouraged me to do an academic visit there for one year, during which they would try to do a tenure review for me. Now my school got very nervous, so it started the tenure review for me ahead of schedule — my tenure review was supposed to start in the autumn of 2001, but now it started half a year earlier in the spring of 2001.

Tenure review is a long process that takes a whole academic year. After being approved by the department, the review has to go to the college, and the college requires an ad hoc committee to find more than a dozen people from outside the campus to write comments, and to compare the candidate with the benchmarks of his field, to proves that it is impossible to find a stronger replacement for him in the same field. Then the case needs the tenure committee and the dean of the college to approve, then the Provost of the university needs to approve, and finally the University’s Board of the trustees needs to approve.

Let’s talk about my baptism now. I later gained a better understanding of Christianity. Before I moved to the university in the east in the summer of 2001, although it was not yet time for my tenure case to be approved,  I decided to be baptized first.  This was because I felt that my wish on Christmas Eve 2000 might not be appropriate, maybe I should not bargain with Gd using my baptism as a condition. On the second day of my baptism, I had a dream, and on the third day, I drove to the university in the east.

During my academic visits to the university in the East, my Jewish colleague regularly forwarded my letters for me. Unexpectedly, on April 30, 2002, he sent me a fax. It was a letter from my University’s Board of trustees meeting in late April that finally approved my tenure. He faxed it to me first, and then forwarded the original. At that time, I remembered the wish I made on Christmas Eve in 2000: If Gd allows me to pass the tenure review before May 1, 2002, I will decide to be baptized. The result is: I was baptized first, and I first gave up the “leverage” of bargaining in my hand. But Gd still let me pass the tenure review completely before May 1, 2002 (April 30). What a “coincidence”!

The start time of my tenure appointment was very strange. It was dated retrospectively to March 1, 2002 on the letter of approval. I later learned that it was because my review started half a year earlier. According to the usual time, my tenure should start on September 1, 2002, and my university’s Board of trustees would probably not be able to retroactively approve such an appointment until their meeting in the fall of 2002 (about in October). Thinking back to the series of things that started to happen after I made a wish at the end of 2000, they made my tenure review start half a year earlier. Was it because I naively made a wish to Gd about a too-early-date of May 1, 2002?

Although I had doubts about whether it was appropriate to make a wish, I recently thought of a story of making a wish in the Bible, which was somewhat similar to mine at the time:

(Genesis 28:20-22) “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If Gd will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LRD be my Gd: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be Gd’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”

May Gd bless all who trust in Him.


(Chinese version:) 关于创世纪28雅各的许愿,有一位弟兄曾作过如下分享:

我敬畏上帝的一个很大的原因, 是因为祂的作为在我身上很精确很信实,让我对祂不敢含糊。我经历过很多对我个人非常重要的“巧合”。很多事我在日记上有记录,一年四季,有很多个人的纪念日,让我回想起祂的拯救和恩典。下面的事,因为发展过程跨越了几年,是20年前的事了,也许记忆有出入。

我想起了2000年的平安夜,教会活动后,在寒冷的夜晚星空下我的许愿。那年是我助理教授tenure clock(终身制时钟)六年期的第四年。六年到期(2002年夏)如果评不上tenure(终身制), 就要在第七年离开。我们学校tenure的条件很严格: 是要证明在同一方向不可能找到更强的别人替代我。

那时我还没下决心受洗, 对圣经了解也比较初级, 所以许了个愿。我许愿说: 如果上帝让我在2002年5月1日前就完全通过tenure评审,我就决定受洗。

过后,我就忙别的事。 新年(2001)开始,我的一个犹太同事抱怨我们学院对我们系的发展不支持,建议我申请move到别的学校。 这个风声传出去了,东部某个常青藤大学动员我去学术访问1年,他们在此期间争取为我进行tenure评审。这下我们学校很紧张,就提前开始对我进行tenure评审 ―― 我的tenure评审本来要2001年秋天才开始, 现在提前半年在2001年春天就开始了。 

tenure评审是很长的过程,要一整个学年。系里通过后,要到院里,院里要临时委员会(ad hoc committee)从校外找十几个人写评论,将我和我的方向的benchmarks比较,证明在同一方向不可能找到更强的别人替代我。然后有院里的终身制委员会(tenure committee) 和院长通过,然后是校务(Provost)通过, 最后是学校董事会(Board)通过。 


在东部的大学学术访问期间,我的那个犹太同事定期为我转寄我的信件。没想到,2002年4月30日,他给我发了个传真, 是我校董事会4月下旬开会最终通过我的tenure的信,他先传真给我,后来才将原件再转寄过来。这时我想起来,2000年平安夜的许愿:如果上帝让我在2002年5月1日前就完全通过tenure评审,我就决定受洗。 结果是: 我先受洗了,自己先放弃了手里讲价的“杠杆”。 但上帝仍然让我在2002年5月1日前(4月30日)就完全通过tenure评审。时间真巧。

我的tenure终身制任命的开始时间很奇怪, 是在通过的信上回溯到2002年3月1日开始的,后来我知道,这是因为我的评审早开始了半年。按通常的时间,我的Tenure应该是2002年9月1日开始,而校董事会很可能到2002年秋天(大概10月份)的会议上才能回溯通过这样的任命。回想我2000年底许愿以后开始发生的一系列事, 使得我的评审提前了半年开始,是不是因为当时我天真地和上帝约了个过早的日期2002年5月1日?

虽然我对许愿是否合适曾有过疑问, 但是最近想到了圣经上的一个许愿,竟然和我当时有些相似:

(创世记 28:20-22)“雅各许愿说,神若与我同在,在我所行的路上保佑我,又给我食物吃,衣服穿,使我平平安安地回到我父亲的家,我就必以耶和华为我的神。我所立为柱子的石头也必作神的殿,凡你所赐给我的,我必将十分之一献给你。”