Unexpected Lessons in the Seminary of Life
A month ago, I graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Bethlehem College & Seminary. Along with the thousands of hours of study with hundreds of hours in the classroom were the countless hours of learning acquired outside seminary's walls. Like most every person I know, seminarians don't learn their theology in a vacuum. We practice it in our daily lives as husbands, fathers, active church members, workers, and neighbors alike. We live it in the midst of pain and joy, heartache and the mundane, in the throes of responsibility and in the quietness of our homes. No doubt, I learned theology in the classroom, but equally important is the Seminary of Life. Here are a few lessons I've learned (and am still learning) in the Seminary of Life.
Trials 101. My wife was pregnant with our first child. The moment I found out, I was the happiest person in the world! Words cannot describe the moment you realize you're a dad. My wife had an app that notified her of the number weeks and how our baby had developed, and we would pray for each part of the development process. But as we made it to the OBGYN's office, the doctor was concerned that our baby's heart was not beating which then led to hours and hours of testing and ultrasounds. The joyous expectations of meeting our baby were dashed with a very painful miscarriage and sleepless nights. We don't know why God chose to take our little one, but in the midst of it all, we've been able to share in the sufferings of many who have experienced similar griefs. In times of our darkness and pain, God shed the light of his comfort on us through His word and his people. Although the life of our little one was short, we hope that the grace we experienced through this trial will be a means to comfort others (see 2 Corinthians 1:3–7).
Rest 101. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, I've learned to rest in my Sovereign God. There is nothing wrong with working hard, but working with no plans to rest will burn you out quicker than you know it. Sometimes we forget that we're human, and God designed us to work and to rest. Just as we work to the glory of God, we must also rest to the glory of God. This means taking time for yourself and the family to refocus and recalibrate and trusting that God is at work, even when you're not.
Vocation 101. I would have never written the story of my life the way it's transpired. For a while, I've sensed God's call for me to serve Him in ministry. But the path to that end did not always make sense. In my mind, it would have made so much more sense to move from Bible college to seminary and pastoral internship and then ministry. Instead, God had a better path for me. After college, I pursued two Master's degrees while working as a security guard, then a barista, then serving, then marketing, and then working as a leasing agent at an apartment complex. Some of the jobs were enjoyable and others not so much. But in the midst of this journey, I've cultivated many skills––skills like organization, teamwork, finances, problem-solving, and even working with difficult people. I'm not sure how all these skills will play out in ministry, but I know God did not waste any moment of my life up to this point. There is purpose and meaning in it all, even when it doesn't make sense at first.
In a longer path than I thought it would take to get from point A to point B, God has recently called Rachel and me to serve at Bayview Church on the Island of Guam. In the coming months, I will transition from "leasing agent-seminarian" to a youth minister discipling teens, young adults, and the church at large.
Moving 101. Minnesota will always have a piece of our heart. In a span of 6 years, we've gained deep friendships and invaluable experience from Eden Baptist Church. Our lives have been encouraged and challenged by the brothers and sisters we've served along. And in the midst of trying to be a blessing, we've gained unexpected blessing in return as we've been encouraged and challenged by godly men and women (and even children!) who have invested in our lives on a number of levels. I'm starting to realize what the apostle Paul meant when he longed that he and the church would be "mutually encouraged" (in Romans 1:12).
In the coming weeks, Rachel and I will be saying "farewell" to a chapter of our lives and "hello" to another. The goodbyes are bittersweet. And I'm certain there will be tears along the way. But we know that God will use the pain and joy, heartache and mundane to build his Church and sanctify his people from the snowy banks of Minneapolis to the sunny beaches of Guam. And every step of the way, we are confident that "He will hold us fast."