As most of you know, I’ve been planning, dreaming, and even sacrificing in preparation for this day for the last four years. I quit lacrosse so that I could attend my afternoon classes, I started looking at seminaries my sophomore year in college – heck, I decided that I wanted to go to seminary in the middle of my first year. I’ve been motivated and driven to get to this point for what I can remember of my past several years. But now that I’m here, the reality is far more frightening – terrifying in fact – than the fiction I’ve been dreaming about. In two weeks, I have to register for my fall long-semester classes. Basically, PTS’s year is divided into two long semesters (10 weeks each) and several (2 or 3) short semesters (3-4 weeks each).
One amazing thing about seminary is the ability to chat with the older students (aka the middlers and seniors – 2nd and 3rd year seminary students) about their early seminary experiences. They have such knowledge and wisdom to share about which professors and which preceptors to have for the various required subjects for the M.Div program. However, I don’t think I realized coming in how simply impossible the next year would be academically. It is only day three in seminary land down here and already I feel as though I have this huge mountain ahead of me. Dean Walters at Smith told me that seminary was a time when all your beliefs and preconceived notions are broken down and rebuilt so that you can become a better minister, chaplain, social worker, etc. And while this is true, it has become extremely evident that this is the kindergarten version of a grad school reality.
So here comes my problem. I’ve heard these horror stories of the various combinations of classes that are required for me to take to complete my degree – happening all at once, like we are supposed to take them. To be brutally honest, I think I’ve begun to doubt myself and my abilities a bit here. I know that I’m smart and that my work at Smith has helped me to grow into a competent and thoughtful scholar. But the people here seem smart beyond words – beyond Smith words. But perhaps this is one of the struggles – or rather challenges – that I am supposed to face during my time here.
I wrote in a letter to an amazing friend who is too facing a huge life change and challenge at the end of the summer that God only gives us the challenges and struggles that he knows we can handle and conquer, and no more. And while I believe that to be true in this case, it is yet again an example of “easier said than done.” It is so easy to sit here in my awesomely huge dorm room – Alexander Hall – looking out at the Luce Library (One of PTS’s soon to be 3 libraries) and think about the future in some weirdly abstract manner, thinking of classes in terms of the future, rather than as entirely separate entities – each a separate building block that will work with all the others to make the structure that will be me in ministry. But at the same time, I only have one building block – my summer greek class, and that, without a doubt, is not enough to gauge what the rest of my three years will look like. Heck, I can’t even begin to think about what the future is going to look like, let alone what the day after tomorrow is going to look like. All I can do is look to tomorrow, and worry about my quiz tomorrow morning on 2nd declension nouns and chapter four vocab words. Beyond that, God will guide me in the right direction when the right time comes.
I think all of this is a great lesson for the future – worry about the immediate future (tomorrow, maybe even the day after) before allowing the future future to consume you. And in my case, as my wise friend Elizabeth told me, nothing about seminary is going to be easy, but that is why we have Christ to lean on. So take advantage of that shoulder, because He is someone who will be there through the good times, and the tough times with the same loving look on His face and the same friendly hand stretched out to welcome you. This has always been a tough task for me, as I am a bit too headstrong and independent to always give away my freedom to pick and choose what happens in my life – as opposed to leaving it up to God whenever and wherever applicable. I don’t necessarily think that I need to give every aspect of my life up to God – I’m just not sure that that is in the cards for me, and not my style. And I don’t think God would want me to change me – because He made me this way on purpose, or so I think.
But in this case, I think God is really trying to reach out and smack me on the back of my head. To tell me what, I can’t tell you now. But I think this is yet another learning experience – to teach me that I am absolutely worthy enough to be here, equally as smart as everyone else, and capable of doing as well as I possibly can, and NOTHING MORE than that.
Ultimately, I think my experiences in seminary will be about doing what works best for me – only me – and nothing more. Far too frequently I find myself making sacrifices in order to make things work for the greater whole. But this is one of the first things in the course of my life that I am doing just for myself. Not for my parents, not for my biffles, not for my friends, but just for me and only me. I think I find this slightly shocking because a good part of me expected to come to seminary, and automatically be changed in my habits and mentality. However, surprise surprise, that was untrue. I don’t think I will truly understand the person I am supposed to become until God decides it is the right time. And drastic changes – not unlike those I was expecting to undergo – just don’t happen overnight. (And it is simply irrational to expect such to happen)
So what is the moral of the story? For now, it is as follows:
I am here because it is where God wants me to be. (I know this because if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have overcome the hurdles I have faced over the last year.) All the changes I will undergo will be revealed to me when God sees that I am most fit, not when I want them to come. And until then, I must be satisfied with the daily reminder of God’s incredible glory and grace – simply being present at Seminary each day, working only one day at a time and loving each minute!
Love y’all! Miss each and every one of you!