Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Embracing What Seminary Has Taught Me: Why Theology Has Changed My Life

I haven't been writing very much lately or even in months, but I felt like coming back and sharing some of the things that I have been writing and things that have been happening in my life. Lots of changes in my life and I want blogging to be part of it!
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My first semester of Seminary was predictably difficult. I had just moved from out of state, had no car and barely any furniture.  I was taking hermeneutics, the class everyone warns you about because it will make you question everything you thought you knew. I didn’t think it was that bad. Sure, there were things that I didn’t agree with, but I am one of those people that can usually take that in stride. The most difficult part was the people, that after finding out I was in seminary, were suddenly concerned, warning me to not let theology run my relationship with the Lord. As I entered my second semester and began to take more difficult classes, I carried this chip on my shoulder. In a seminary that is fairly-evenly camped in the Reformed tradition, I felt like the lone Charismatic. I had a chip on my shoulder, something to prove, and my guard up again theology.

It is no wonder then that I spent my first theology class mostly angry. I was that annoying person we have all had in classes that argues with the professor for the sake of arguing.  I actually cringe when I think back to the things that I said, hoping to get a rise out of people and prove that I was not going to let theology ruin what I absolutely knew to be true. Once again, it is no wonder that as the semester drew to a close, I was considering walking away. I was profoundly unhappy, frustrated, and annoyed.  Mostly though, looking back, I was insecure.

I decided to take that summer semester off to contemplate my options and contemplate life a little. I met with one of my professors to discuss a paper and that talk really changed the course of my life. I hope to be able to tell him one day how the gentle words of encouragement that he spoke to me during that meeting about my place in the seminary really impacted me. I approached the rest of the summer as a time of rest and rejuvenation. I blogged, read, met new friends, and did all the fun activities I normally don’t have time for. As the summer drew to a close, I attended a conference that sealed a lot of the work that I didn’t even know that the Lord had done in my heart. I remember saying to a friends, “It feels like I have had a heart transplant.”

I went back to school and embraced the dreaded academia. I finally chose to do the Masters of Divinity concentration that I wanted to. I started a prayer group that the Lord had placed on my heart and was named President of the Student Council. For me, Seminary is no longer a place that I go for class three nights a week, but a home and a community. When I find myself upset or unsure, it is my safe place where I want to go and curl around my books full of wisdom about God and His character.

And as for that dreaded theology? Well, sure theology can drive a person away from God, but then again, most things can in the right circumstances. When I embraced the opportunity to learn about God through a study of theology, my world exploded. My heart was stirred by the implications of the kenosis and incarnation. I was humbled by the realities of human depravity. I was astonished by the depth of love shown in the atonement. I was moved to tears more through my study of theology than I would have ever expected.  

So, today, instead of feeling like I have a chip on my shoulder or protecting myself from those ”dangerous” theological ideas, I embrace them. I let God use them to change my life over and over, day after day. And I get where people are coming from when they say that theology can be a stumbling block. The thing is that it is only that way if you let it! The Lord is continually correcting me when I let it go too far, when I start getting prideful or too focused on my studies.

Going to seminary and a systematic study of theology isn’t for everyone because not everyone is gifted or interested in it. For them, it might be a stumbling block or boring or whatever, but not for me. And not for a lot of other people.  Simply put, theology has changed my life and I hope you will allow it to change yours. 

image from the Evangelical Evangelist

2 comments:

  1. Nice to hear from you again!

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  2. I can relate to several parts of your story! Had a moment today in theology survey when I started tearing up during a discussion on Jesus' death and resurrection because the professor explained the implications of it in a new way. I love adding to what God has shown me in other avenues in my life and seeing him puzzle piece it together - never taking away what He's done in the past, but simply adding. :)

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