NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Like many married couples, Page and Ashley Brooks planned for Friday “date nights,” a special time to get reacquainted after a week of work and family responsibilities.
Their daughter Karis was with a sitter, so Friday nights meant uninterrupted dinner and conversation, maybe a movie. Then it was home — to their doctoral dissertations. On Saturdays, for most folks a time to chill, the story for the Brookses was the same.
Typing. Typing. More typing.
Their diligence and obedience to what they feel was a clear call of God was rewarded on May 17 when Page Matthew Brooks and Ashley Nalls Brooks received their doctor of philosophy degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Page, a native of Montgomery, Ala., received his Ph.D. in theology. He is an instructor in theology and Islamic studies at NOBTS. Ashley, a native of Tifton, Ga., received her Ph.D. in psychology and counseling. She is an adjunct instructor at the seminary.
While the road to their degrees was hard, God’s grace fueled their perseverance.
“We look back and say, ‘How in the world did we do it?’ … We would never for sure do it again,” Page said. But he noted that “we looked at it as a job” and “we knew God had called us to it. God literally gave us the grace to do it.”
“There were many times we just wanted to quit,” she said. “But we knew God had called us to it, so we were able to go back to that. That’s what He had asked us to do, so we had to be obedient.”
The mutual encouragement was invaluable, Page said. The dissertation process involves many academic and procedural obstacles and rigorous research.
Along with the academics, some spiritual truths have emerged for the couple on the road to a doctorate.
“I came to a point where I couldn’t really do it on my own,” Ashley said. “I had to have the Lord’s help to do it. Until that point, school had always been easy for me and I had not had to depend on the Lord for school. I went into Ph.D. work and realized it was completely different. The things that would work for master’s-level work didn’t work for Ph.D.-level work. I had to move to another level and I couldn’t do that without the Lord’s help.”
The couple adopted Karis last summer during the dissertation-writing process. Their new daughter gave the couple some much-needed perspective.
“Having her has enabled us to realize it’s not all about the dissertation, it’s not all about school,” Ashley said. “It’s not all about those things that we think are so important. When it really comes down to it, it is important because God asked us to do it. I think that [Karis] has probably made us realize what is most important: That we live godly lives as an example to her and to parent her through grace.”
Traveling the doctoral road together has also strengthened their marriage.
“It’s made us more patient,” Page said. “It’s made us more aware of how important family is, even over things like career, academics, writing.”
Page will continue to teach theology and Islamic studies at NOBTS. Meanwhile, Ashley will focus on her family. She’ll still find time to do some counseling and teach at the seminary on an adjunct basis.
“Right now, my primary job will be taking care of Karis. I really feel like God asked me to do this dissertation and get the Ph.D. over with so that I could focus on her. Now that I’m finished, I can focus on family and then after that, career. I’m not career-oriented, I’m family oriented,” she said.
In the early days after their doctoral work was completed, the couple found themselves restless. Surely there was something that needed to be read, edited or written.
“Coming off of the dissertation was sort of a de-stressing,” Page said. “You’re wound up tight for so many years. It’s quite relieving, like a heavy load is taken off your shoulders.”
In the decompression chamber that is post-dissertation life, the Brookses plan to play golf, enjoy music and something most folks take for granted on lazy Saturday afternoons: “On the practical side,” Page Brooks said, “I just want to take a nap without feeling guilty.”
Paul F. South is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.