I never thought I would be in seminary. I definitely never thought I would be in seminary as long as I have been. I’m in my fourth year and potentially have a year and a half more. I’m not sure it this is the common route, but it is the path I’ve taken while being a husband, a father, and working full time. In these past three years, seminary has taught me quite a few things I did not know about theology, the Bible, church history and a whole slew of other subjects.
While learning about the subjects listed above have been benificial to my growth as a theologian and one day (Lord willing) will be beneficial to me as a pastor, seminary has benefited me as an individual as well. I certainly have benefited spiritually from my time in seminary due to increased time in the scriptures and reading those who have gone before me as they wrestled with the cultural issues of their days. But I have also learned about myself in the process. Here are a couple of things I have learned about myself in my three years in seminary.
I’m Not As Smart As I Think I Am
I was bound to learn this at some point in my life and to some degree, I have. Seminary has only quickened the process. Without trying to sound too braggy, I came into seminary with a decent amount of theological knowledge. I attended a Baptist school for my undergrad earning a degree in Christian Ministry and a minor in Bibilical Studies. I had previous theological training under my belt when entering seminary. I attended a church that was very strong in its doctrine. I assumed I was in a great place to, if not glide through my classes, at least pass them with ease. I discovered in my first semester this was not the case. I took a classload of nine credit hours which I found difficult to complete (some of which was due to my laziness). I found myself struggling in classes I had taken in my undergrad. I interacted with students on message boards who clearly had a much greater grasp of the material than I did. I came to the realization that perhaps I was not the theological genius I thought I was. As I’ve continued in seminary, I have only found this to be more true. By no means do I believe that I am biblically illiterate, but I certainly find myself knowing less and less and honestly, thats a good thing. It propels me to a greater pursuit of knowledge for personal sanctification and growth.
I Am Limited
As I mentioned above, I am married, a father, and work full time. My time is limited. When I started seminary, my wife and I had only been married for a little over six months, I was working a full time job which gave me afternoons off after one pm, and had very little obligations otherwise. Perhaps that is why I was so adament on taking three classes my first semester in seminary. I was six months removed from a life where I was a single man in my early twenties with a lot of time on my hands. One word comes to mind: Foolish. I admit that I was over my head with the three classes I took my first semester. I found that I had less time than I thought I had. My grades were abysmal first semester and second semester…they weren’t any better. I ended up dropping to two classes after a year in seminary. I found that this was a much easier pace for me as I tried be a husband and work full time. Now that my wife and I have added a baby into the mix, time I can devote towards school continues to dwindle. Luckily, the course load has been manageable and I have enough wisdom to know when I am over my head.
I learned I am also limited in my ability. I have been known to try to do too much at one time. Seminary has, in the past three years, brought me to my limit several times. Due to the amount of time I have as well as my personaly strengths/weaknesses, I now know better what things I should start on earlier. I cannot read a 400 page book in a matter of hours in one sitting. Instead, I have to read sporadically and for no more than an hour and a half. I can craft a well-written paper in an hour if need be. I can’t watch hour after hour of lectures, but I can understand them over several hours separated by time in between them. All of this has helped me understand how I learn and what I am capable of. It has given me a fresh perspective on my limits when it comes to ability and how I can improve.
I Enjoy Learning
While school for another year and half is something I desire due to the cost and the time, one thing I am looking forward to is what I will learn. I’ve heard it said that if you are a pastor who does not enjoy learning, you are in the wrong profession. To me, learning means growth. It means advancement. I find joy in learning. This does not mean that I enjoy everything I learn about. I don’t particularly care about the Lapsarianism and the thought process of God ordering Creation, Fall, Election, etc. While that is interesting to other people, I don’t quite share their enthusiasm for the subject. I find myself much more attracted to how our theology is applicable to the world we live in today. Luckily, seminary is the place for learning all of these things much, much more. Seminary has taught me how to seek out these opportunities. Whether it be a book, an article, a podcast or a sermon, an opportunity to learn should not be wasted but should be pursued to be used to our advantage. Take please in asking questions and learning because the rest of life is filled with “learning moments.”
Some Things are More Important
I’ve been told a story by a friend of mine that one of his seminary professors told him. “This professor,” said my friend, ” had a student who came into seminary with a wife and child. He was a very intelligent student, but had to work hard to earn his grades in seminary. He studied and studied and worked his way through seminary with nearly perfect grades. Unfortunately, his studying and extra work he put into seminary was at the expense of his family. While he graduated with straight A’s and Honors, his wife divorced him and took the child with her.” The point: Sometimes it’s a sin to get A’s. Seminary is time consuming. Anyone who has endured the rigors of studying/reading for classes can tell you that. What is often not said is how engrossed one can get into studying for a degree that they forget what is most important. I’ve learned over the past several years that getting the A’s in classes are great, but if they come at the expense of my marriage or at the expense of time I could spend with my son then my priorities are in the incorrect order. Time spend with my family should always take precedence over school work. Yes, the study of God’s Word is important, but it does not take the place of the people in my life that I am called to love.
I Have a Long Way to Go
A professor of mine once told the class that the more we grew in sanctification/holiness, the more we would understand just how sinful and wicked we are. The same is true for development of other, non-spiritual traits as well. i can assuredly say that I am not as holy as I think I am. I am not as far along in my sanctification as I think I am. I am more sinful than I think I am. I can also say with full assurance that I am not as wise as I think I am. I am not as good of a communicator as I think I am. I am not as good of a writer as I think I am. I am not as emotionally intelligent as I think I am. All of these things have become more apparent through the work I’ve done through seminary. Comparison is not something we should live our life based upon, but sometimes it is helpful to watch faithful saints; what they write and what they say and how they act, so we can better understand where we are currently. This is both discouraging and encouraging. It is discouraging because it means I have a false image of myself, probably because I am marred by sin. It is encouraging because it means I have more learning and more growing to do which involves the excitement which only comes from a journey.
Where I Go From Here
What I have loved about seminary the most is not the interaction with the students, the teachers, or the time spent reading. While all these things have been wonderful, my favorite thing about seminary is the fact that God has used something like seminary to change me and change my heart. He has molded me by it. He has used it to change me into the person He wants me to be. There are many more things I have learned from seminary which I have not written here and in the next year and a half there will most likely be more things I will learn about myself. Thankfully, God is taking the broken vessel I am and using seminary to grow me and stretch me. Without seminary and God’s use of it in my life, who knows how different my life would be. Thanks be to God that His plans are so much wiser than my own.