Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Seminary, Part IV - Was It Worth It?

Finally, after a very long month of trying to complete a 4 part blog series on seminary, the dramatic conclusion: Was it worth it?

When I started seminary, I had only been in my job for about 6 months.  I only had one child, but a second one was on the way.  My parents lived in Connecticut at the time and had not retired.  My church was still intact at the time.

Nearly five years later, things look very different.  I have a new job as of last week.  Many of the same people but a very different look to what we're doing.  God is on the move and the question we continue to throw around is, "Are you ready?"  I now have three children and the only way I'm having any more is through an act of God or by a movement of the Spirit in my wife and my hearts to adopt.  My parents retired and moved to Williamsburg, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 2 months later and was gone in 6 months.  My dad's health is failing and he will most likely not be around for a long time.  Things look very different.

Everyone asked me what I would do with my free time when seminary was done.  Little did I know that I would be part of a church plant who would be pushing 700 members right out of the gate, but that has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God.  Free time is not something that comes along frequently these days.  I'm reminded of a line from Mr. Holland's Opus when Mr. Holland was speaking to the gym teacher about what he would do in his free time, to which the gym teacher laughed and responded, "I can't remember the last time that I had that was free."

After all of the sacrifices, long hours, tears, heartaches, and anxiety that went into this degree, was it worth it?  Did the end justify the means?  Would I do it again?  Yes.

I am not the person that I was when I started.  The process of learning was also a process of transformation that worked in my life to change me, to form me, to make me more into the image in which I was created.  This degree was not simply about checking off a box to me.  Like I've said before, no one made me do it and I am thankful for that.  I am a better man, husband, father, pastor, and friend because of what God has done in my life.

It was not for the fainthearted by any stretch of the imagination.  It took an incredible amount of discipline, discipline that I would never have had if it were not for all of the extraordinary circumstances in my life.  There were plenty of times that I wanted to quit, to take a break, to put the whole thing off until life somehow normalized, but I didn't, and I am grateful for that.

I went through the program at a pace all my own.  I did not follow the exact route that had been laid out for me by the school, but in seeing how God pulled everything together, I have no doubt in my mind that the route which I took had been ordained by Him.  I could probably write a book about the number of "coincidences" that took place between life, ministry, and school.  The things that I was learning in life, ministry, and school somehow managed to overlap in ways that I never would have been able to plan out on my own.

One case in point was the fact that my mother passed away just five days before I was to depart for a week of class out in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I was so unsure what to do, yet I knew that my mom had been my biggest advocate.  She was always so proud of me and was always pushing me a long, supporting me every step of the way.  I knew, as did the rest of my family, that had Mom been able to talk to me, she would have told me to go, do what I needed to do.

That week of class was one of the most memorable weeks that I ever had at Bethel.  My professor and classmates were gracious to me.  The course material was therapeutic for the moment of time in which I took it.  Two of the greatest friends that I made during seminary were with me during that week and were so incredibly supportive.  I can't imagine having been anywhere else where I would have gotten near the support that I received that week.  When it came time to sharing our thoughts about the week's class, I emotionally shared how blessed that I felt having been surrounded by such an incredibly example of Christ's love.

Was seminary worth it?  You bet.  While I was there, I connected with four other brothers in Christ who have affectionately become known as "The Nachos."  God brought them into my life to be an encouragement and support and I can only hope that I have been able to provide the same for them.  I hope and pray that we will stay connected for years to come.

It was a hard road lined with blood, sweat, and tears, but I believe that it accomplished everything that I had hoped it would and so much more.  I can only hope that others might have a similar experience when they finally decide to take on the same task.  So, when do I start my next degree?

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