Dear 3 year-ago me,
Congratulations on getting married and getting accepted into Redeemer. You look like you couldn’t be more excited — as if this is something you’ve waited on for years. The Lord has given you an extraordinary gift in David and his encouragement. Cherish it.
People will make jokes to you about seminary (“more like cemetery” they will say). You don’t want to listen to them because you think you’re different. But their intentions are good and their warnings worth listening to.
You will be tempted to think of your time in seminary as a “means to an end.” You don’t now — you don’t “have” to have this degree to serve as a minister of the Gospel. Especially as a woman. As a result, you see this season as a true gift, the pursuit of knowledge of your Savior. Keep this intention ever before you. Pray hard against the temptation to see this time as a means to an end.
You see, especially towards the end of your time at Redeemer, the temptation will grow stronger. With past voices in your head of “you will be successful at anything you do,” you will start to be afraid. Afraid of what they will think when you don’t have a high-powered job right after you graduate. Afraid of the pay cuts you’re sure to face after being in the business world. Afraid of the word “internship.” Afraid that you wasted 3 years of your life slaving away with nothing to show for it. Afraid that you missed out on what everyone else seemed to be doing with their lives. Afraid that 30 is too old to start a new career. Afraid of not finding your place as a woman in ministry. In a word, you will be afraid to fail.
You see, this fear has tripped you up all of your life. It has led to seeing successes as disappointments. It has bred discontentment. It has darkened otherwise shining moments. And you will stare it in the face for the hundredth time.
But take heart. Remember that your Jesus has a plan. Remember that his way almost always looks mysterious. Remember that his life was one of humble servanthood. Remember that he is worth trusting with everything you’ve got. Remember that he has provided for you in countless unexpected ways up to this point. Remember his miraculous salvation in your life, a salvation that speaks more life into you day after day. Remember that the journey of seminary, not unlike the journey of your whole life, is to know him.
This is the best advice I have for you: Make your aim to know him. In every class that you take, are you meeting him? Are you in awe of his goodness? Is the overflow of that worship making your face radiant? Are you keeping your relationships a priority – because they are the most precious in his sight?
27 year-old me, you are in for a wild ride. Keep your eyes set on Jesus and you can’t go wrong.
And don’t be afraid to fail. In the failing, in the ashes – you will know him. And you will find life.
Last night’s debate between Bill Nye (The Science Guy!) and Ken Ham reminded me of why I appreciate my seminary training.
And I needed a reminder.
Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, I have loved school. I have senioritis, so that’s saying a lot. But there are times I can’t stop thinking about the same question: Has it been worth it? The academic rigor, the physical toll, the sleepless nights, the vocabulary drilling, the money…it all takes its toll.
But tonight, I was reminded that I am called to speak intelligently to those who want (or demand!) logical, thought out answers. Including myself.
The “three-year ago me” would have been troubled by a lot of what was presented tonight by Nye. I’m not a science geek, and have never been. All that he said about rock formations, stellar astronomy (yes, when Nye said he was a “stellar astronomist,” I thought he was giving himself a compliment…and that’s after 2 semesters of astronomy in undergrad), microbes…let’s just say the concepts alone would have sunk me. They seemed more plausible than what Ham had to offer. Ham had good intentions, but when it came to the “scientific explanations” for certain things, Nye seemed to be able to do more.
Yet after slowly and carefully working through Genesis 1 last semester and asking a million questions from from different perspectives, I feel confident that the “Bible as a scientific textbook” approach to the Scriptures is a modern phenomenon which asks modern questions. The Bible IS interested in where we came from, don’t get me wrong. But if you begin to see the Bible FIRST as a story, and Genesis as the introduction to that story (and the nation of Israel’s story), the pressure to make the Bible answer questions it isn’t primarily concerned with dissolves. Do I believe that God is the ultimate Creator of everything? Absolutely. Do I also believe that we have an obligation to take Genesis 1 in its historical, cultural and canonical context (among others)? Absolutely we do. Yet, instead of doing the tough work…we get scared. And when we get scared and defensive, we don’t think through our answers.
Thank God that in my heart, I wasn’t scared. Nye didn’t threaten anything within me…instead, he stirred my compassion for all the “science guys” out there. Sure, he mocked Ham a few times here and there, but God has made Nye in His image with a beautiful mind. A mind that marvels at the creation (Nye actually used the word “joy” to describe his scientific discoveries), yet has absolutely missed the beauty of the Creator.
You see, God, in his merciful providence, knew that deep-thinking “talk myself in or out of anything” me would NEED a firm grasp on tools to access the truth intelligently. He knew that I would need it, and that those around me would need it too. So here I am, desiring to finish strong – for the sake of the truth, the glory of Jesus Christ – in my mind, and in my sphere of influence. He has created me for such a time as this — may I live faithfully unto His Name.
I approached the seminary season with great hopes of having all of my questions answered. I ask a lot of questions…so much so that my husband calls me “The Riddler.” Much to my surprise, my questions would birth new questions, deeper questions…questions that have left me feeling as if the very foundation I am standing on is weak. Instead of the newfound confidence I craved, both for myself and for my ministry to others, I have been left with newfound insecurities. I feel like my marriage to Jesus has somehow reverted back to the awkward dating phase, “So…Jesus, tell me about your family. Your favorite color. How you grew up…” It is a bit frightening and I am left vulnerable; vulnerable to answers that I don’t expect, vulnerable to being wrong about something I was so confident in before…vulnerable.
Yet, how would Jesus define my foundation? Would he define it was “thinking rightly” about him? In the same way, how does my husband define the foundation of our marriage? Is it defined as knowing everything about him? Is there room to “rethink” things I thought I knew about him that end up being wrong?
In Matthew 7, Jesus speaks about our foundation, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
The variable in this story is the one who either does or does not do the words that he/she hears. Each one hears, yet the emphasis is not on “hearing rightly,” the emphasis is on the doing. I would argue that right hearing leads to right action, and is very important. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t subject myself to a grueling 3 year intensive study of the Scriptures. However, for the sake of today, Jesus equates the one possesses a strong foundation with the one that does the things that he/she hears.
If I equate my foundation with “right thinking,” I am certainly on shaky ground. This perceived vulnerability has led to a wall in my relationship with Jesus – “If I can’t be sure about you, Jesus, then why should I come to you at all? Why should I trust you, if I don’t even know if I’m trusting who you really are?” The one person I can rely on and put full trust in has made me with limitations in my knowledge. As a result, certain parts of him are veiled, beyond my reach. He has chosen to reveal himself in time to humans made from the dust, rather than in one moment of full clarity.
The reality is, my foundation in marriage and in relationship to Jesus is seen most clearly in covenant actions – first and foremost, actions or vows made on my behalf. The very foundation of Christianity is on the actions of God in history. Jesus not only “thought rightly” about me, but he chose certain actions: humbling himself and taking on the form of human flesh, resisting temptations and dying on my behalf. He certainly thought well, yet earned his “well done, good and faithful servant…not, “good argument” or “good analytics!,” but “well done” on the basis of his actions. Because he obeyed the greatest commandment to love God and love neighbor, he stood strong against the most destructive of storms: betrayal, shame and even death itself.
With Jesus as both my foundation and example of true humanity, I build on the foundation of love with which he loved me. Even in my wrong thinking, he loves me, and beckons me come. And because he loves me, I know love and am free to love. He is more concerned about my building on his unshakeable foundation of love – trusting him in the things I do see of him and loving my neighbor in the ways I ought – than my abstaining from love because I don’t fully know and can’t fully see. He waits for me to come, to hear, and to respond.