So, it has been a while since I last posted, and in that time, quite a bit has happened and several changes have been made. As many of you know, I decided to begin my seminary journey a few months earlier than the majority of my classmates by taking Biblical Greek for two months. Little did I know when I signed up that I would be taught a Year’s worth of material in only eight short weeks…because if I did, I’m not sure that I would have signed up for this! But as I have had t constantly remind myself more recently, God provides us with unforeseeable challenges that alter the way that we viewed the future to teach us strength, endurance and courage. This has most certainly been the case during my first month at PTS, that is for sure!
Most people already know that I spend 2 days in the hospital several weeks ago, so I’m not going to go over that again, but because of this less than pleasing experience, I have learned numerous lessons and had to make several quite major changes in my foreseeable future. First major life lesson: obviously I was a peanut farmer in a previous life and have therefore outgrown my tolerance to them in any way, shape or form. Long story short, I should live in a bubble. But more realistically, I need to live in my own place and be responsible for my own food preparation. As a result of this (and also due to the fact that I am a legal liability to the seminary, obviously…), PTS is moving me into my own apartment at the end of the month. This will certainly be a huge change and a bit of a challenge that I was not expecting to undergo this soon. But yet again, God sees that I am ready and able to take this on, and in the back of my mind, I have full confidence that can handle this right now. Thankfully, I’ll have a one-bedroom about 3 miles off campus that is owned by the seminary, so I won’t have to worry about signing a lease or paying rent on a monthly basis, which will make the transition from dorm life to independent living a heck of a lot easier.
Another interesting result of this experience is the change in my mentality about where I might be called to ministry. As I was lying in my CCU bed, I was constantly surrounded by chaplains and PTS clergy, and for the first time, I realized how infinitely valuable they are to both the patient and their family. One chaplain in specific really eased any worries that I might have had about being admitted (for the second time this year, nonetheless…), being in the hospital, and even about being in summer Greek. (he had gone to PTS and took summer Greek as well…) what this all boils down to is this: when I came to seminary, I always felt so strongly called to church ministry, but now I’m beginning to wonder whether I might be of better use in a hospital, where I can put my own medical experiences to good use — to help others and their families in times of great crisis. I haven’t lost any family or really experienced death (except for the sudden loss of a dear friend back in February from an eating disorder), but I’ve spent enough time in the hospital over the last few years to at least be able to empathize with a family or a couple. I always wondered why I went through what I have, what purpose all that was for, but perhaps this is the answer to that long-unanswered question. Maybe I have found my purpose. Obviously, I have yet to do my CPE (clinical pastorate education, a requirement for most seminary students seeking ordination, I actually think PTS requires it for all of its M.Div candidates), so I don’t really have a good idea of what a hospital chaplain does day-to-day, but the prospect of taking on the position has become a bit brighter over the course of the last few weeks.
In the wake of my first seminary medical scare (probably won’t be the last, but I hope this will be the last for a good long while), I have learned a great many things about life in seminary. Firstly, the community is only as strong as it’s weakest link, and when one (wo)man is down, we must circle the wagons around the sick one until they are better. The same applies to seminary. When I was in the hospital, at no time was I alone. I was taken to the ER by the head of counseling services. The first afternoon, I had three of my close friends visit. Then, a dear friend stayed overnight with me. In the morning, when she left, the head chaplain of the hospital came and stayed with me until the head minister of the seminary could get there to sit and pray with me. Then, the dean of students and the seminary president dropped by. When they left, my Greek professor dropped by for a short while, until 7 amazing friends came by after classes ended for the day. 6 left and one stayed to make sure that I had an escort when I got discharged. During this time, the head chaplain came back, and also my preceptor dropped by. Ultimately, seminary has been about community for me, and when I was down, everyone that mattered rallied around me to make sure that I felt supported. At smith, when I was ill, the only people that cared were my immediate friends. Professors, administrators, everyone else continued to do their own thing, go about their lives as though nothing were wrong. But here, community is community and one person is as important as the whole. I would never turn that type of support down for all the money in the world or all the fame, popularity, anything.
So. In one month, I have have learned participles, over 200 Greek words and have covered 20 chapters in our textbook. But the more important lesson I have learned is that my voice is crucial to the survival of the community, that my voice matters. That is a feeling that I never had at Smith, in high school. Here, we are being trained to be selfless leaders of the church community, of God’s flock, giving of ourselves endlessly. But I rejoice each day in the fact that my voice is important, to the seminary, to the church, heck, to myself even. My voice is important to my own survival. If I don’t speak up and express my concerns, then my voice doesn’t get heard, I am not included in the larger picture. And in the case of my nut allergy, if I don’t speak up and advocate properly for my own health, I may not be so lucky next time. So, lesson learned. The community should care about me as much as I care about them. And if they are a true community, they will. So far, PTS is just that. A true community, despite its flaws and short-comings. How rare is that, a true community that takes care of it’s own? All I can say is that I fee eternally blessed that they decided to pick me back in November. That they thought that I was worthy enough. Thank God that I was among the chosen. For this, I am eternally grateful.