Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why I needed seminary (and why we all need it)


I had a major breakthrough yesterday during class. I know that it has been a while since I have blogged (clearly this isn't something high on my priority list), but I've had this revelation and wanted to share it with you.

Some of you might know that I have applied to have my degree program changed from Master of Divinity (M.Div) to Master of Arts in Ministry (MAM). This would mean that I am graduating in May 2014 instead of May 2015. The MAM is for people who desire a theological education, but are not planing on entering ordained ministry. I do not feel called towards ordained ministry, and do not see a future (at least at this point in my life) where I would need a M.Div instead of a MAM. For those of you who might remember, I had a very strong call experience. In February of 2012, I knew without a doubt that God was calling me to McCormick. Discerning whether or not that meant going into ministry was still up in the air. But I felt called, and (almost) immediately followed.

My time at McCormick has been life-changing. And that is why God called me to this place.

I have never been the most introspective of people. I find it much easier to make the practical decision rather than the one that I want or feel called towards. I am easily swayed by the wants or opinions of close friends and family. I don't want to spend time thinking about what I want, because that is often harder than picking the option that "makes sense". I can only think of one point in my life where I chose the option that didn't really make sense, and that was my YAV year.

In class yesterday, we had to look back at our life and think of important events, people and places that have shaped us into who we are as Christians. I realized that up until mid-way through my YAV year, I didn't think about that. I knew who was important in my life, and I knew the places that made me feel closer to God. But I hadn't sat down and thought about the trajectory of my life up until that point. Honestly, it was (and still is) just easier for me to think about the future rather than think about my past. Because when I think about my past, I think about my mistakes.

Seminary has been a place where I have been forced to think about my past. Yes, I have been asked to think about mistakes. But I have also been encouraged to think about the positive events and aspects of my life as well. And these were class assignments, not just "suggested activities" to do on our own time (aka I would not have done them unless it was required for class). Every class I have taken has challenged me. It was difficult for me to share these aspects of my life in class. My entire "schooling career" up until this point consisted of regurgitating information or applying learned theories to different scenarios. Never was I asked, beyond primary school, what I thought, what I felt, or how was I affected by the subject matter. Applying my own experience to a topic was a completely foreign idea to me.

As I said previously, every class at McCormick has challenged me. The content, along with my professors and peers, has challenged me to do what I didn't want to do - process my life up until this point. Many people come to seminary after years of ignoring God calling them to ministry. I happily and eagerly came to seminary, thinking that it would just be a few more years of schooling. Easy peasy! Had I known then how emotionally challenging some of my classes would be, I might not have come at all. Had I known that I would be willingly sharing pieces of my life with almost strangers, I definitely would not have come. Had I known that seminary would completely change my hopes and dreams for the future, I would have turned and run away.

It is true, most people come to seminary because God has called them towards ordained ministry. My friends are learning the skills that will serve them in their future (and for some, present) ministries around the world. But I have come to realize that I needed seminary so that I could discover who it is that God is calling me to be in the world. I needed seminary so that I could be changed. I needed the McCormick community to help me realize that our past is not full of mistakes. I needed my friends to show me that it is ok to pursue your dreams, no matter what they are. I needed seminary to inspire me to radically shift how I live my life.

Some people might say that I am called to ordained ministry. But I cannot say that. And to pursue it at this point in my life would feel like a lie. I would be lying to my classmates, the Church universal and most importantly, to myself. Seeking ordination is the decision that makes sense. It is the next step after seminary that I am expected to make. But if seminary has taught me anything, it has taught me to be radical. To follow God's call, not what people want or expect for me. To seek a position in ordained ministry would be to ignore everything that I learned over the previous year.

Honestly, I don't know what the future holds. Unable to break all of my habits, I am in the process of looking for a few things to occupy my time post-graduation. The most exciting one would take me away from Chicago, to a new place and new experiences. It is sad to think about potentially leaving all that I have built here in Chicago, but exciting to dream of new possibilities. But I am trying to focus on today. I am trying to put my attention on the things that are a part of my life right now.

I have imagined where I would be if I had gone straight into graduate school after undergrad. I would most definitely have more money, but I don't think that I would be better off in any other way. I absolutely made the right choice coming to seminary. It wasn't the easy choice and it isn't the easiest path to be on. But as they say, the best things in life don't come for free.

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