Today, in one of my classes, I was asked about whether going to Seminary could cause a person to lose their faith……….Interesting question……
When I first sensed what I now know as a “call to ministry”……I had no idea what was happening to me or why. All that I knew was that a job that I had been blissfully happy in for 22 years was no longer making me happy anymore. I was restless, frustrated and felt trapped. I was turning 40 and was looking at the next 30 years of my life wondering- Can I really sit on the floor singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round’ with gusto and enthusiasm for another 30 years????? Did I want to be a 60 year old preschool teacher? What did I REALLY want to do with the next 30 years of my life?
I knew I wanted to go back to school. I had always felt disappointed with the unfinished business of not completing my Masters in Education. Did I want to go back and finish that? Did I want to work towards becoming a college professor and teach others how to teach? I looked into that at first. But the more that I prayed, and thought and wrestled, the more everything seemed to be pointing to starting over at the beginning and pursuing a Masters in Divinity. Then I went on a Women of Faith weekend and God actually spoke to me and told me what to do (happens very rarely to me- but when it does- WHAMMO!!).
My life in the Church was what gave me my greatest joy and sense of purpose. I read theology books for fun. Going on weekend retreats was my idea of the best time ever. I taught adult Bible study. I led spiritual formation groups. I stayed awake till the wee hours of the morning composing sermons in my head. I loved my Sunday mornings teaching Middle and High School students about Jesus. Seminary was the only thing I was beginning to think about.
I was warned by a number of people that going to Seminary could cause me to “lose my faith”. As I sit here, three courses away from graduation, I can categorically say that it did NOT. The faith that I have now, however is a very different faith than the one I came in with. The church where I currently worship is very different than the one I came in with. I am totally OK with that. My beliefs about many issues within Christianity were challenged, stretched and put to the test. Some of them came out stronger. Some of them changed. Some of them are still in the process of changing. Some of them, I decided, were not important enough for me to wrestle with anymore. All of this is good. All of this is growth. I hold onto things a lot less tightly than when I came in. I am more able to disagree with humility and grace (MOST of the time). I am more comfortable with saying that I don’t know the answers. I am WAY less “judgy”. I rarely channel the Dana Carvey “Church Lady” character anymore. (Though there ARE still a few issues which bring her out in me!!).
Am I closer to Jesus than when I started Seminary? Absolutely. Am I more convicted than ever that I want to give my all to the advancement of Jesus’ Kingdom – both now and in eternity? Definitely. Were any of my “fundamental beliefs” changed? No. Jesus is God. He came to earth on a rescue mission to save humanity from itself. Jesus died. Jesus is risen. Jesus will come again- and He graciously offers us the opportunity to join Him on His mission to rescue His creation. That is the core I came in with. That is still the core I am leaving with.