When I graduated college, I was convinced I would never set forth in a classroom again. I hated school. I spent 17 years straight taking exams, making projects, writing papers, and reading endless books, and I was done.
Yet, when I felt a call into ministry, the natural question everyone asked was, “Are you going to seminary?”
I hated it. For one, I knew that I didn't want to be a pastor. I had been accepted into DiscipleMakers as a missionary to college students, and I loved the opportunities that I had there, so I started to resent this idea that it would be “better” for me to go to seminary and become a pastor.
Second, I was just tired of schooling. I wanted to be in the “real world.” I didn't want to be stuck in a campus bubble, nor did I want to be stuck in classrooms.
I vowed that I wouldn't go, not because I didn't see value in it, but because I thought everything I could learn, I would by being in the field.
It's been nearly ten years since then, and, much like all other times I've said, “Never will I ever...” God has gotten the last laugh. Starting January 2018, I will take my first class at Westminster Theological Seminary in pursuit of a Masters of Arts in Biblical Counseling. So how did I get from Spring 2008, where I said never, to now, where I'm begging for training?
1. God's Timing: While I trust God will use seminary for my good, and will further equip me, there was a lot of things I needed to learn while not in a classroom. I needed to learn to master and leverage my emotion for good, rather than let it control and consume me. I needed to face my fears of what people thought of me. I needed to crash and burn, and receive grace upon grace from Christ as I sought to learn from my mistakes.
2. Further Humbling: With those mistakes, I learned I knew a lot less than I thought I did, and in turn it made me more receptive to feedback, more patient to jump in with an opinion, and more quick to listen. This was very helpful, because in the past, I needed to prove myself. I had to be correct. And I was quick to defend any point that I had, because I, often wrongly, assumed it was contrary to Gospel. I needed humility to realize that I could learn in any and every situation.
Proverbs 4:7 says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” The past ten years has helped cultivate an attitude (though not a complete one) of wisdom gathering, rather than prideful point-proving.
3. Understanding and Fine-Tuning my Gifts: One of the great things about working in campus ministry, and especially with DiscipleMakers, is that you have to learn so many different skills, even if you're not naturally good at them. But while I've become a far better swiss army knife, I've also learned where the Lord has gifted me over time. I hadn't realized it, but I realized one of my real passions was counseling. I deeply love digging in with people and helping them process the junk they have gone through, and there's some natural giftedness there.
But with that giftedness, I also see just how limited I am in this area. The more I explore and journey with people, the more I realize I'm stuck. Now, part of this is good. I'm not Jesus. I'm not the Holy Spirit. I don't have the power, nor the responsibility, to know just exactly how to access the heart. But I want to know how to be more effective. I want God to use me in ways that would bring miraculous healing to the souls and spirits of those most deeply hurting.
So... with faith in Christ, I'm doing the one thing I vowed I would never do: go to seminary. I might be crazy. I might fail. But I trust that God will use this for my good, and His glory. The fact that I want to go is a start. After all, He is the one that put it on my heart.