In June of 2008, I began my seminary journey. I was only six months into a new job, had one child with one on the way, and was pretty anxious. I could do science and math, but a degree using the other side of my brain was fairly intimidating at first glance. I started off slowly, only taking one class that summer, knowing that I would be behind just as I was getting started. Ironically, I will actually finish 6 months ahead of some of the rest of my cohort.
I vividly recall being at my parents' house in Connecticut the night before I flew out to Minnesota for my week of intensive classes. I stood in the room where my son was staying, holding him in my arms, crying because it was the first time that I would be away from him for more than a day or two since he had been born. I knew God was calling me to the path that I was on, but it didn't stop some of my apprehension and uncertainty from rising up within me.
In order to keep from being away from my family for four weeks out of the year, I decided to sacrifice my Thursday and Friday nights to take classes up in D.C. at the Metro D.C. Center of Bethel Seminary of the East. Not only would it prevent me from being gone across the country, but it would allow for me to have some classroom interaction for more of my classes. So, in September 2008, I started my journeys up to Northern Virginia to take classes.
Four years later, my world looks very different. Some might say that I have been proficient as my one child has turned to three. My parents moved from Connecticut to Williamsburg and now I have one parent less than before. Even my dad's health has been failing and my heart has been aching over all that he has been through as well as the inevitable future that I will have to face.
When I first began the classes in D.C., they went from 7PM until 10PM. It was a two hour drive, so I would usually get home around midnight. Over the course of these four years, the schedule changed a little bit and professors even made some adjustments so that classes started at 6PM and ended at 9PM. It's only an hour, but it felt pretty good to get home at a more reasonable hour.
My parents were such good sports when I first started, I would call them after class and chat, mostly with my mom, for the first leg of my trip home. We would catch up on the day, talk about my class, and just enjoy having the opportunity that was before us. It certainly helped my travels to feel less burdensome and more enjoyable.
I clearly remember my last Hebrew class when I had a take-home final exam to be completed. Having spent three hours in the language prior to my trip home, everything felt more fresh than it normally would. I had gotten about 20 minutes into my trip when traffic stopped...dead. It wasn't moving at all. So, I decided to make the most of my time and began working on my final exam. By the time that traffic let up, I had pretty much completed it. Not the most opportune time or place to complete the exam, but at least I was done.
Today marks the last time that I will travel up to D.C. for class. I am filled with bittersweet emotion. I have made some incredible friends through the program in D.C., a program that is different from my program through St. Paul. Although I am a minority in my classes, generally being the only white guy in there, I have never felt like anything but family to all of my brothers and sisters with whom I take class. Not only has the coursework been formative for me, but the experience has been as well.
Tonight, when I walk out of those doors for the last time, I will get into my car and pick up my phone. My dad and I will talk for a little while and I will be grateful, but there is still a hole in my heart that was left when I lost Mom. I will drive away from the building and leave it behind, knowing full well that all that took place within those walls has changed me for the better. I will drive away for the last time.
But the end of one chapter is generally the beginning of another. I will drive home to my family who I love, one of the greatest gifts that God has given to me. I will check in on my three kids and pray a prayer over them, thanking God for them and asking that He will continue to draw them close and to use them. I will kiss my wife who has been a helpmate and support to me through everything that we have experienced over the last 11 years of marriage.
Sure, it's the last time that I'll travel for this class, but my learning doesn't end here, it's just the beginning in so many ways. As much as I might think I know, I have a whole lot more to learn. Life changes, we lose the ones we love, we gain new friends, and we are changed ourselves. I always pray that I can leave a mark on the people that I meet in hopes that together, we can leave a mark on this world. The end isn't really the end, is it? Nope, it's just the beginning of something new.