Graduation is just around the corner, in just over a month. It feels like just yesterday, I was moving into my dorm room in Alexander Hall for summer Greek, filled with eagerness and excitement, giddiness almost over the start of what felt like the fulfillment of a dream. Greek was a bear (not the choice of words I would like, but I have elected to keep this blog G rated, so choose your own words in place of “bear…”) but the experience of a lifetime.
Seminary, as with life, has been filled with roses and thorns, joys and tears, ups and downs. I have chosen to put the good sides first before the more challenging sides, to view the good above the hard, to be glass half full. Classes have been both incredible and challenging, filled with growth and ease, difficulty and a lot of new information. Field education has been by far, my absolute favorite, however. A mentor of mine said that finding a placement might take time and boy, was she right. My first placement came out of a difficult medical emergency (an anaphylactic reaction in my summer Greek class – not “time,” per se, but not exactly how I would ever have imagined…), and my second field ed placement did not manifest itself in the easiest of ways. I interviewed at 10 churches, visited many more, put myself out there and became raw and vulnerable – a quality that I was not necessarily very natural at, only to be turned down each and every time. My first placement my middler year was a complete and utter disaster, and by the grace of God, my heart literally malfunctioned, resulting in the placement’s withdrawal. My senior year, I finally found the right match in a vibrant and winter-loving Dutch man thanks to my courageous field ed advisor. In the middle of the summer, unbeknownst to me, he accepted a new call, and yet, God was also calling me to this new “Dutch” church as well. What should have been a chaotic and anxiety producing time was actually the calm in the storm moment of my senior year. Two students in one placement turned into one student in two placements, and the absolutely perfect placement with the absolutely perfect supervisor; growth happened, brokenness physically and spiritually happened. The Holy Spirit happened. Prayer happened. Pastoral authority happened. Pastor Liz happened. Oddly enough, my love for church was rekindled in the most incredible way thanks to a crazy Dutch man and a “Dutch Neck” church with its most wonderfully broken and beautiful congregants who were willing to welcome me in with open arms.
This weekend, I’ll be picking out dresses for the various graduation activities, and I only have a few requirements for the frock. One. It must be extremely girly, colorful and springy. This is extremely important, since I am graduating, and I want to feel fabulous, especially on this day that I have worked toward for three. damn. years, so dang it, I will look damn fabulous. Two. The dress must show my scar. I won’t buy the dress if it doesn’t show my scar. This might sound odd for some, but my scar is a meaningful part of my seminary journey, and thus, must be a meaningful and vibrant part of my graduation day as well. I want it to be in my photos, I want others to see it, and I want others to realize that I am NOT ashamed of it. My heart tried to get the best of me, and dang it, I won, so my scar is the sign of a victory, a blessing, and a very important part of my seminary journey.
Three years ago, I never thought seminary would ever end, and I hoped it never would. I couldn’t envision that there was anything beyond, that ministry was this vague and impossible thing for people who knew everything and could do everything that I couldn’t. That these people who “did ministry” knew everything about the Bible and theology and pastoral care, and these people “had all the answers,” and that person wouldn’t ever be me. And here’s the bad news, guys…that person is definitely NOT ME after three years at Princeton Seminary. But that person isn’t going to be anyone, regardless of where you go, or how much you study for three years, because as a professor of mine at New Brunswick Seminary said, the pastorate is a lifetime of learning, prayer, and getting paid to do it. If you love studying Scripture, then this is the job for you. Thanks dude, I know I can always count on you to make the truths of life that cut and dry.
I don’t know everything. About the Bible. About theology. About God. But I know how to pray, to ask for discernment, for help, and for guidance. Ministry is about growth and witness, faith is about a journey. An adage runners and those who enjoy exercise tote “its not a sprint, its a marathon, man…” (picture a rasta guy, with dreads, preferably blonde…and tan…) Well, faith is much like that as well. It isn’t about the short-term sprints, but about the long-term marathons, and going the distance with God. How cliche, right, but admit it, the core message beneath the words is true. I won’t go so far as to say that it isn’t about how you get there, but that you get there, because that opens the very heavy door to say that you can do whatever you want to whomever you want, because you’ll eventually get to “the end” with God. Uhh, nope, God does care about what we do to whom we do it to.
So run the marathon, not the sprint. Enjoy the scenery, relish the sights, because God is in all of it, not just the rushed bits, but the slow, languished, savory bits as well. The bits where we go, “ughhh this couldn’t go more slowly, for goodness sakes…” God’s there too, and I can’t believe that Seminary has been a sprint and a marathon all at once! What a crazy journey, but its just the beginning of what will surely be yet another series of sprints in life’s marathon of faith!
Thanks be to God for that!
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