Many things about my first semester of seminary were hard. The whole idea of this semester is to break down everything you think you know so that you can appropriately build it all back up and be a great pastor/academic/Christian/person while you do it. In case you read that wrong, that’s an incredibly significant task. You might think the hardest part of that task is translating and exegeting ancient Hebrew texts. Or synthesizing all of your theology in an eight page systematic paper. Or learning the Old Testament so well you could name the book, speaker, addressee, and significance of ANY OT quote. Or staying awake for a 6:30-9:30pm church and state class. Or maybe even the fact that all of this is not only breaking down your academic perception of theology and religion, but also your personal faith and your career.
Those things are all hard. But they are not the hardest part. The hardest part of all I’ve been doing for the last six months can be summed up in my hardest exam question. It said something like this, “Describe and explain new learnings you have taken from this course that you might want to communicate to those whom you might lead in your ministry. Explain how these learnings may be significant for the faith of the people with whom you will work.”
See my whole life has changed in the last six months. More than I could describe in an exam question or a blog post. I am a different person. In faith. In community. In heart. In service. In life. I am different. Hopefully more educated and cultured and passionate. But different nonetheless. I have been stretched and challenged and broken in so many new ways. I have wrestled and struggled and grown in so many new ways. I have read more and slept less than I think I have in my whole life. I have had conversations, both external and internal, that have greatly shaped the way I approach theology and ministry and life. How do you describe that in a one page essay in a three hour block of time when you also have seven pages of excruciatingly difficult Old Testament questions to tackle at the same time?
I think the answer is that you don’t. I’d like to think that my response was poetic and stimulating and somewhat coherent. But it’s not about my response on that test. It’s about living out what I’ve learned. It’s about pressing into the change I’ve experienced this semester and the change I will undoubtedly continue to experience for the next two and a half years and beyond. It’s about holding on to all of the excitement and tears and scars and joys these last six months have brought. It’s about making sure this theology I’m building shows up in my ministry, now and every single day from now on. So, if you thought you were going to get all of the answers to the most difficult questions by the end of this, that’s your own fault for thinking seminary gives you answers rather than more questions. Instead you can keep me accountable and watch how God has changed my life in just six months. Because I can’t go back. I am different. I can only move forward, no matter how difficult or exhausting or flat out overwhelming it may be. Because I am called. And I am changed.