Attending seminary seems to invite questions from other people about my faith and training. Some have queried me about theology or social justice issues. Others have asked more personal questions such as "What made you want to go to seminary?" or "What do you plan to do when you graduate?" or "Are you going to be a preacher?" For some of my classmates, the answers come easy, especially those who have experienced a very clear calling from the Lord. But not all of us have easy answers to what seems to some like simple questions.
I learned early to craft quick, easy responses to these inquiries, all the while knowing that each could, if allowed, possibly take an hour or more to answer honestly. My enthusiastic "I'm not really sure!" answers have been unimpressive and perhaps off-putting, but often an efficient means of moving conversations along. Make no mistake, I am perfectly willing to discuss my motivations and plans, but most answers seem way more complex than I think most people realize, and I haven't wanted people to find themselves trapped in a hours-long answer when they most probably expected a minutes-or-less-long reply.
And isn't this a regular part of our stories? Short, sugary bites seem way more palatable than heartily gnawing a meaty bone of authentic and substantive what's and why's, even though I know full well that is where the most impactful truth is found. Embarrassingly, I have become quite skilled in the art of short answers and deflection to avoid grappling with potential misunderstandings.
1. I enrolled in seminary because I wanted to study the Bible under trusted teachers.
I wanted help exploring answers to all kinds of questions. I wanted more than a typical small-group Bible study experience. I wanted to build muscle and strengthen my leadership and teaching skills. I wanted to learn in a community built around a love for truth. I desired understanding deeper and wider than that provided by the average commentary. I longed for deep conversations with other believers fostered by instructors willing to listen and guide us.
2. I hope to glorify God with the knowledge I've gained over the past three-and-a half years.
I hope to employ my newfound skills in ways that can bring others in the work and purposes of God. I want to share who God is, what He's done, what he's doing now, and what He promises to do to save the lost, mend the broken, and restore justice. I want ot dig deeper into topics we touched on but did not have time to fully explore. I want to continue studying God and His Church. I want to serve as a vessel the Lord can use to draw the hurting into greater understanding of who they are in Christ Jesus.
I no longer intend to routinely deflect the what's and why's generated by my faith and actions. I am more prepared with answers and willing to boldly speak. People desperately need honest responses to their questions about who God is and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I, along with my fellow graduates and students, have access to a treasure trove of the Master's tools.
However, as I approach the finish line of this season, I know that my time of casually dancing around hard questions is over. My amazing educational adventure has clarified a call of duty that includes a willingness to offer thorough responses to those who sincerely seek them. Whether or not the questions are about me or God, honest answers matter. I am under no illusion that I have all the answers, but I certainly have more than I started with. This gift has been so much more than a few years in graduate school. I have explored depths I had no idea even existed, and now I am ready to share.
3. Yes, I am going to "be a preacher."
Maybe not a pastor in a pulpit, but a trained servant willing and able to use my voice to let people know the freedom Jesus offers, what He's already done for them, and the abundant life His Gospel offers. I will share who Jesus is and is not. I will proclaim His name over illness, addiction, sorrow, bondage, and pain. I will preach His Word and His promises about kindness, love, peace, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, and salvation.
I pray that we use them well, and that the Lord continues to guide our steps, bless our words, and provide us with abundant opportunities to use our training for His glory.