This past May, by God’s grace and because of my phenomenal wife, I was able to finally finish seminary. Now that I am finished with seminary, I want to share some reflections regarding my journey. These are things that I learned along the way. This list includes things that were exciting, beneficial, painful, torturous (greek) empowering and miraculous. As I look back over these last five years, the anthem that has been running through my mind is written in James 1:2-4;12
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Here are seven things I learned from being in seminary:
1. Never take a language class the first year of seminary (especially if a 6 month class is condensed into a 4 week time period). I thought I could learn greek in four weeks. My wife begged to differ. In fact she was absolutely certain I would not. I should have listened to her. She was right. I was wrecked. I should have taken a queue from our greek professor who told us on the first day that we were all going to die a slow death. He could not have been more accurate. It was a good first lesson in how to shatter your pride and clothe yourself in humility.
2. A support team must be in place if you want to get out alive. This is a crucial element and I am thankful to God that I had this team in place. There was not even one moment where I was not able to call someone to inspire or encourage me. This is huge. I am grateful for this team. I love you all and I could not have done it without you. Please know that your time spent speaking with me was not in vain. You were my life-lines. God bless you for this.
3. Expect Miracles. It was absolutely exhilarating to see how God exploded onto the scene and did the miraculous. At the precise moment when I saw no hope in sight, he sent an oasis that calmed my anxious soul. One evidence of this occurred when our funds were depleted to continue seminary. Vika and I had absolutely no idea what to do next. At this precise moment of frustration, I got an email from a pastor who is shepherding a small church. This church was often visited by my family. My dad would preach there and we would basically come to encourage and strengthen this church. They let me preach at the church and this was when I was 17 years old! I love those people. Vika and I would want to actually visit them again! The pastor said their church wanted to do a one-time financial gift to help me to continue in seminary. This was unexpected and a huge surprise! It was miraculous! It was again another opportunity for Vika and I to praise God and loudly proclaim his goodness and faithfulness to those who love him and continue on in their journey with him.
4. Your faith will be tested. There were times when I wanted to quit. There were times when I thought I could not go forward. But God continued to show up and sustain me. God continued to press into me, shaping, molding and strengthening my faith. He wanted me to rely on nothing else but Him and His power. He was continuously producing this element of steadfastness in me. He did not want me to rely on my own talent, stamina, charisma or giftedness. He wanted me to treasure Him and to pursue Him. My faith was tested. I remember waking up at night, realizing the difficult task at hand and crying out to God. He heard me, sustained me, cultivated a spirit of steadfastness in me and worked in me to got me through everything!
5. You are capable of more than you have ever imagined. When I started seminary, I was driving almost 200 miles a day, three days a week, to attend a three hour long greek language class. At the same time, I was working full time, forty hours a week. At the same time, I was spending 10-20 hours a week doing homework. At the same time, I was working in the church as a volunteer, leading the youth and preparing sermons. At the same time, I have been married for less than one year. Looking back now to the early years of my seminary journey, I have no explanation of how I did what I did except that God just showed up and did His thing. I was simply the recipient of His grace. With God, we are capable of doing more than we have ever imagined for his glory. I think God loves to shatter our dreams because he instills in our minds new ones that are bigger and more explosive than we would ever be able to come up with.
6. There is sometimes no connection between what I learned in seminary and what really happens in the church. Seminary is supposed to prepare you for ministry. It gives you a good foundation, but practically, you learn a lot more when you are working in the trenches (and deep pits of desperation) within the context of a local church. How the church functions and how the church should function are two entirely separate concepts. Sometimes it seemed like no one really cared what a word meant in the original language or that in fact when the word “elder” or “pastor” is used in the New Testament — it is used in the plural sense every single time. Nevertheless, when the practical and the methodological is worked out, the foundational theological grounding becomes very valuable and useful.
7. Your wife better be all in or don’t bother going to seminary. (a quick caveat — I am not trying to be gender exclusive here. Both of my younger sisters are currently attending seminary. I am just speaking from my personal experience as a male) I had a friend ask me at a conference if my wife allowed me to go to seminary. I told him that he would not have seen me here unless that was the case. He said that he was jealous of me for that. I asked why is that? He said that although he really wants to go to seminary, his wife is not yet ready to let him go. I wish they would let wives walk across the stage during graduation. Vika graduated with me as much as I did. She made me my lunches. She made me greek and hebrew flash cards. She collated and stapled my essays and homework assignments. She went with me to various seminary functions. Basically, if she was not all in, I would have never made it. I am glad we got to go through this journey together. I am excited for the next season of our journey.
At this point, I have never been more uncertain about the future. At the same time, I have never been more excited. All glory goes to Jesus.
Question: Are you currently close to completing an important milestone in your life? Have you just began? What have you learned so far about your journey?