Four years ago this summer, I began a journey. I started my seminary degree with more than a little bit of trepidation. After 2 engineering degrees, I was very familiar with what I needed to do to survive and thrive in that world, but I was entering a foreign world, one that I wasn’t sure that I was prepared for.
I remember so well the night before I flew to Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. It was the first time that I would be away from my only son (at the time) and I was incredibly emotional. I was questioning whether or not I should really be embarking on the journey on which I was getting ready to embark. I didn’t know what to expect.
I had only been in my new job in Mechanicsville, Virginia for 7 months. Things were still new. I knew that I would not be able to afford to do the program the way that everyone else was, so I was only going to be out of town for a week. My wife and I had also made a commitment that I would take some classes in D.C. so that I wouldn’t have to be away for so long.
I knew no one in my program, so I had to take a shuttle from the airport to the seminary. I had no idea where to go, so I ended up telling the shuttle to let me off about a quarter of a mile from where the building where I was staying. I walked the rest of the way in the July warmth with all of my bags. When I got into the building, I began to meet a bunch of the people with whom I would spend the next 4+ years with.
My first class was a deconstruction of sorts as my professor began to tear down much of what I had thought I had understood and believed. The conversations in class were stimulating, but the ones outside of class were life-giving. A few of us connected and began some deeper conversations together. We continued those conversations over nachos and drinks on Thursday night, the night before we would all return home.
As I continued to take classes in D.C., I went off track from my friends, but we continued to connect every time that we took classes in St. Paul. It became a tradition for us to go to Grumpy’s and continue the vein of conversation that had started in the summer of 2008. We affectionately called ourselves “The Nachos.”
As the program continued on, I had fewer classes with my friends, sometimes not even seeing them if our class schedules did not bring us to St. Paul at the same time. We connected via Facebook and Skype and did our best to stay in touch with one another.
Last Sunday, I flew out to St. Paul for my final week of classes before I finish up this coming December. I knew that I would only see one of my friends as the rest of them were here the first of the two weeks. I knew that I would have to rent a car for the first time and get used to the roads around St. Paul. No big deal really, I’ve driven in New York City before, but it still made me a little nervous.
Now, I sit here typing at my computer, the same computer that I had four years ago. I’m sitting on the floor of a room at Luther Seminary, where I have stayed the past 4 winter intensives. I have to continue studying for an exam that I will have in the morning. Once that exam is done, so are my intensives, and my time in St. Paul will be coming to a close. It’s a very nostalgic feeling for me.
It’s been one of those times when I wanted to press the ‘record’ button on my brain so that I can keep a record of every moment, every picture, every feeling that I have been experiencing. The week has flown by and tomorrow it will be over. While I’m overjoyed to get home and see my family, there’s a part of me that is sad.
There has been much blood, sweat, and tears shed over this journey. I’ve lost someone that I love. My family has increased in size. My wife continues to grow more beautiful to me every day. As much as I have learned, I have realized even more that I have so much more to learn.
Sometime tomorrow morning, this somewhat monumental event in my life will pass by with nothing but a whisper. There will be no shouting; that will come next December when I turn in my final assignment. There may be some tears and I know that there will be no small amount of rejoicing as I inch closer to the end of this journey.
I don’t know what the future holds. Many people consider me gone from my church when the degree is done, but that has never been my intent. No one told me that I had to get this degree, I did it for myself. I know that I have learned a lot and that I still have so much more that I could learn. As much as I would love to stay and work on another degree, my whole family and I need a break. Any further education won’t be happening really soon.
Yes, tomorrow will mark the beginning of the end of an era, a chapter, of my life. With every end there is sorrow and mourning, but there is also a beginning. At the end of every road, another one can start. I don’t know where that road will lead, but I know who is with me on the journey. I am fortunate to have a lot of people in my life who love me. Although I might not be the richest or the smartest man, I am blessed and very rich beyond compare. I know that I’ll continue to grow as I walk along this road. I look forward to seeing where it leads me.