If you spend any amount of time with me, you will learn quickly that I am a confident person. I operate by the motto, self-esteem is self-achieved.
Regardless, part of my (sometimes overly) confident personality clings to a bit of insecurity – most commonly when I am around people who seem smarter than I. You know, the kids with a BA who use words the BS kids don’t know anything about. Maybe they’re overcompensating. Maybe I’m overcompensating. Maybe. Probably. Don’t you dare judge me!
And where do I encounter these people most frequently? Seminary.
Seminary seems impossible sometimes. Prior to attending, the pastors who influenced me to apply made it clear this wasn’t going to be a cake walk. They were right. But there is only so much you can tell someone before he or she has to experience it personally. So here I am, finishing up year 2.5, staring at this computer while an unfinished paper knocks on the document behind this one.
While preparing for the research paper I’m procrastinating currently, I was searching for index cards (read: standing on a rolling chair, jousting at the top of my closet). I eventually found the box and inside was a stack of older cards also, all bound together, with the word “yes” written on each of them.
A few weeks into my very first semester of seminary, I was invited to go back to Clemson and preach at our college ministry gathering. I was becoming a candidate for ordination at that time and part of my duty was to obtain the written support of a local congregation. I chose my college ministry – the people with whom I spent the most time singing, serving, leading, and who tolerated my snoring on mission trips so, so graciously.
When my local church was asked if they thought I was gifted and called for ministry, they said yes.
As the reality of my second-to-last semester of seminary comes to a close and my stress level is expressively higher than most weeks, how great is it to be reminded that I have been set apart to serve the local church? What a time, when I’ve been stacking myself against my peers; when research and writing become my primary appointments; when I can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel? What a time to remember that I have been called and affirmed to be at this place, at this time, for this task?
For me, it causes my perspective to shift a little.
Through this lens, seminary is just as hard as everything else. I recall that at the end of the day, the books always get highlighted. All the papers get written. The stress is high in the moments, but the work always gets done. Seminary is hard, but it isn’t impossible.
God is using this time to prepare me for a life of service to the very institution that first set me apart from sin through my baptism, then grew in me a desire for more grace, and has again set me apart for vocational leadership in this beautiful and tender community we call the Church.
Through this lens, it is a privilege to do this work. It is a privilege to research the dead white people who shaped Christianity as we know it. It’s a privilege to write papers about topics I think don’t matter anymore. It’s a privilege to be at a university where questions are being asked and tradition for the sake of tradition is being challenged. To serve the church is my task and in this season of preparation, I must remember why I started.
So I’ll keep pushing. I’ll keep researching. I’ll keep writing. I’ll let go of my insecurity and ask the liberal arts kids for help (they’re better writers than I am anyway). And each day, I will remind myself of the gift God has given me through my calling, affirmation by the church, and setting me apart to lead a community in the name of Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.