Today I was asked a series of questions about my seminary journey. Questions about the greatest joys and challenges, questions about transitioning with children, and even my best tip for moving (a task at which we have become quite proficient).
One question from today that has my mind turning is this: “What is your best tip for people entering the seminary or considering the seminary?” My answer came easily and quickly: “A lot can happen in a year.”
During your seminary career, you view life, like most people, in year-long chunks. At the seminary, these years have names: first year, second year, vicarage year, fourth year. Each year becomes a special unit in your mind and memory. Your first year, you are simply figuring it all out, and by the time you do that, the second-year class leaves for vicarages and the fourth-year class takes their first calls. Your second year, you at least know the city of St. Louis, but you find yourself greeting new and returning seminarians and their wives as they unload their moving trucks. Vicarage year flies by in a flurry of friendships and events and unloading and loading a moving truck. Fourth year is not even a whole year, and each month comes and goes without you realizing it’s happening.
But a lot has happened every one of those years, and today, I was asking myself why.
Every year, I have had the honor and privilege of being invited into the lives of the people around me. These people have changed me and challenged me and taught me more than I could ever imagine. I have watched Jesus move in the lives of my friends and family across states and, in some cases, countries. I have seen Jesus act in my life. I have read books and been involved in small group Bible studies. And even though a year, or ten months, or even six weeks in a Bible study isn’t much, especially in the grand scheme of life, Jesus was there. He is the reason relationships were formed, connections were made, life lessons were learned.
Jesus doesn’t need more than a year or six months or even six weeks to change your life. In fact, sometimes, He doesn’t need much more than a minute.
Because of the seemingly constant transitions at the seminary, life can feel a bit fragmented. It makes you long for roots. It is unbelievably easy to talk yourself out of inviting someone to coffee or over to dinner. It becomes easy to not show up or engage. In my situation, my reason for not showing up is the seminary journey. Quite frankly, I’m tired after these four years. I want more than anything to paint my walls, and yet, I am constantly reminding myself that painted walls won’t make it easier to show up at Bible study. Painted walls won’t make it easier to invite someone over to dinner.
While in prison, Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church, telling them: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20–21). This statement comes at the end of a section of the letter titled “Prayer for Spiritual Strength.” Paul prays that the Ephesian Church “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:18–19).
More than you could ever imagine can happen in a year at a job or six weeks in a Bible study or one week at Vacation Bible School. Not because of you, not because of me, but because of Jesus and His power at work within us. I pray that you and I may have strength to comprehend the love of Christ, that we may be filled with the fullness of God, that our eyes would be open to Him as He accomplishes abundantly more than we can ask or think.
Wherever God takes you in the next year, embrace the vocations He’s given you. Wherever Love May Lead guides you in recognizing your vocations.