When I came to that realization today, I felt a little bit of sadness deep down inside. Whenever there is a completion of something, there is always a satisfaction in having accomplished a great feat. At the same time, when so much blood, sweat, and tears have gone into the process, it can be somewhat bittersweet.
I am a Learner. Before I even entered seminary, I was reading 2 to 3 books a week as I tried to learn more about ministry and the different approaches that people have taken in it. I wanted to gain as much insight from as many sources as possible. My reading load has certainly decreased with outside material since enrolling in seminary, but I have still found time to engage in extra-curricular reading. It has been an important part of my formation.
I have met some incredible people in my seminary journey as well. There are a number of guys who I have connected with on a personal and theological level who have meant a lot to me throughout the process. My hope is that those relationships would continue long after we receive our diplomas. When life-giving relationships are found, one would be foolish to simply let them fade away. Like anything else, relationships need fostering to continue and I hope that these relationships continue for a very long time.
When I finish my last course a year from next month, the world will be a very different place than it was when I began. I would like to think that I am not just a little older, but also a little wiser. There are missing pieces from my life, but there are also new areas to explore, new opportunities to seize, and new days in which I can live out the adventure of serving God.
This journey will have required 144 credit hours, 36 courses, two ancient languages, 3 systematic theology courses, 5 Bible survey courses, 100 trips to Glen Arden, Maryland for class, 8 trips to St. Paul, MN, and hundreds of pages of type-written work. There's no way that I would have been able to accomplish any of it if it hadn't been for my amazing wife. She has been tolerant of a lot as I have been somewhat consumed by schoolwork and grades, more so than might be typical. She has faithfully loved me and our children. She has tolerated quizzing me in Hebrew and Greek vocabulary words. She has read hundreds of pages of papers until a trusted friend stepped in to be a great editor (thanks, Tommy). This degree will be as much hers as it is mine.
My children have also put up with a lot. I am hoping that it won't have caused them serious and irreparable damage in the future. By then, my wife may be working as a counselor and should have some good references to refer them to should they have such a need. Kids are resilient, but I will be glad, for their sake, when this is over.
My church has been incredible to me. They have loved and supported me, encouraged me and even tolerated me at times. I think that they have benefitted as well as they have served as a sort of proving ground for all of the things that I have been learning. Somehow or another, those things would work their way into devotionals and sermons that I would be giving. Whether people knew it or not, as I was learning in seminary, they were learning along with me.
Yes, it's been a long strange trip. It's not over yet. While I know that there is so much more learning to be done, I'm pretty sure that my wife would shoot me if I decided to work on degree #4 as soon as this is over. In the meantime, I will finish this one out and when it's all over, I will breathe a deep sigh of relief. What I will have accomplished may not mean much to some others, but to my family and me, it will mean a lot. It will mean a lot because of the price that we paid for it, and when it's over, the time that I will have with them, free from certain distractions, will be priceless. While it is an end of a chapter, it will also be the beginning of many others as well.