In graduate school, I had to cite an academic source for everything that I wrote. If there wasn’t research to back it up, then I couldn’t use it. Common sense, my opinion and personal beliefs were never enough to give validity to anything. I admit that I would often purposefully look for research that backed up my opinion, and I could usually find it. This type of research is what I am going to dub “top-down research.” I wasn’t really learning anything new, I was only validating that I knew what I was talking about.
“Bottom-up” research occurred when I started reading research without an end goal in mind, or when I stumbled upon something new, or when I couldn’t find research to back up my opinion and had to change my opinion. I was thinking about my approach to grad school research last night, and came to the conclusion that my approach to life should be “bottom-up.” Instead of going around looking for answers to validate my opinions and prove to myself that I am someone special because I “know,” a bottom-up approach to life makes me teachable.
More importantly, the way I approach God must be a bottom-up approach. Instead of coming to God and listening for the answers that I want to hear, or even searching the scriptures of verses to validate my personal beliefs, I want to prayerfully read the Bible and allow the illumination of the scriptures to inspire me with new concepts from God’s perspective. I often used top-down research when I was in a rush. It didn’t take me long to plan the outline of a research paper when I knew what I want to write about and I knew the point I want to prove. In 15 minutes I could plan a 30 page paper, in a few hours I could find all of the sources I need to back me up, and in a few more hours, I could have the paper completed.
When I wrote Angel: The True Story of an Undeserved Chance, it was bottom-up learning. In each interview, I had no idea what new information or insight was going to come at me next. I listened to the information, then I wrote it, and the organization came naturally. I was amazed at how the chapters naturally ordered themselves to approximately the same lengths as each other. The order of the book swiftly came together as well. When all of the information was in front of me, the patterns practically jumped off the page and I was able to sort it out and put every puzzle piece in place.
Life comes at me in the way that Angel’s story came in the interviews. I never know what to expect next. It feels like a jumbled mess as I first begin to process my life. Over time I’m able to look at it and see how everything seems to come together and make sense. Yes, I’m still waiting on some missing pieces. And there are some pieces of my life that seemed to have been put in the wrong puzzle box. I want to reject those pieces, say they don’t belong to me, but they do, and one day, I will see God’s plan and how it will all come together to make a complete picture.