I am wrapping up my very first quarter of seminary as I write. As a matter of fact, I am bouncing back and forth between writing my summative final papers and writing this post. I think I’m going to like having this outlet to write and collect my thoughts during my seminary journey.
Writing academically is an exciting challenge. I actually love the process. To me, it’s the best part of seminary. Well, maybe reading is the best part of seminary, but writing papers is a very close second. They go hand-in-hand really. I read to write, and I write to read. That’s my life. But back to the point.
I’m wrapping up my final week of the summer quarter, and I’ve been reflecting on my experience a lot this week. Seminary has been everything I expected and none of what I expected at the same time. I told my husband mid-way through the quarter that if I never took another seminary course outside of these two classes, I would have a lifetime of material to contemplate. But how amazing that I get to keep going?
For the summer quarter, I took Vocational Formation in Seminary and a psychology foundations class, On Being Human. These two classes are part of the required courses all seminarians must take before diving into the bulk of the Master of Divinity program. I think there are about six of these foundation courses, so I’ll be working through them over the next year.
Taking two classes over the summer was a really good fit for me. It felt reasonable, and I was able to manage the workload fairly well alongside my other responsibilities. Taking the entire summer off from homeschooling was a good idea, and I was able to give myself over to my studies while the kids rested or napped in the afternoons.
But I’m making it sound too breezy. It’s true that getting the work done for my seminary classes was fairly easy. My lifetime of reading multiple books at one time partnered with my strengths of learning, processing, and analyzing material critically gave me a definite leg up. Not to mention, writing comes naturally to me by way of a gift from God. However, the content of both courses required a level of introspection and reflection that I wasn’t quite ready for. The Lord had been graciously preparing me, yes, and I even had a life coach/therapist relationship fully established before beginning classes, but I was not prepared to need her as much as I did over the course of the summer.1
Every single week brought up new levels of pain to process through. I had begun the work of processing my past before I started seminary, but the course outline for each class allowed for a more intentional focus on various parts of my life that have shaped me, formed, and sometimes hurt me. There were weeks when all I did was cry. I wrote journal entries for class through heavy-lidded eyes, thick with tears. I went through rolls of tissue and actually learned to sit with grief, name the losses, and move to a level of acceptance and grace that I have never been able to before. It was the hardest summer of my life, but also the very best one I’ve ever experienced.
I sat with my Academic Advisor several weeks ago to prepare for the fall quarter, and I asked her to please help me choose a class with less internal work that dredged up my testimony every single week. She smiled compassionately and said, “Those are it for a while unless you choose to take the Chaplaincy route or become a therapist.” I laughed and told her that was no help since I’d been entertaining ideas for both of those throughout the last ten weeks (ha!).
Alas, I’ve nearly made it through this quarter, and I can honestly say the person I was when I started this journey in June is not the same person I am today. I’m changed, I’m healing, and I’m learning to process the hard parts of my life through the lens of grace and truth. For that I am so grateful. So very, very grateful.
After much deliberation and prayer, I’ve decided to only take one class in the fall – Old Testament. I am over the moon excited to begin! I’ve fallen in love with the Old Testament over the last couple of years, and I can’t wait to have a guide in delving deeper into its treasures. Taking two classes this summer was doable, but once I inserted homeschooling into my day again, it just became too much all at once. I had to keep a stringent schedule during the day that left no room for error. This isn’t healthy or sustainable, so one class it will be for now. We’ll see how it goes!
Okay, it’s back to writing my final papers. I plan to share with you what I read over the summer in my next post. I’ll share some of my favorite books from seminary as well as what I read in my own time. There are some gems in there, so stay tuned!
- Because of the nature of these two courses, Fuller Theological Seminary actually encourages you to establish a working relationship with a therapist. They provide countless resources for support throughout the quarter, and our small group leaders and professors were very sensitive and pastoral in their care of us during the process of unraveling. Some unraveled more than others, but we all had to do the work of honest living throughout the course. ↩︎