Monday, June 11, 2007

The Strange Lives of Seminarians

I'm still not used to the graduate school calendar, or, for that matter, the post-primary education school calendar. Eight years after graduating from Machias Memorial High School in Machias, Me, it still feels odd to be out of school in early June. So it's not personally weird to me to write a brief retrospective on the past school year, even if I've been out of school for almost a month.

Three years completed at Southern Seminary, one semester to go. My first two years were markedly different than this year. Life as a single seminarian is vastly different than life as a married seminarian. Bethany and I weathered alot this first year. I took difficult classes in Hebrew and Church History, she worked full-time for the first time, and we coped with small amounts of time together. Seminary is a bruising experience, on the whole. The MDiv is by no means a short-distance race. It is, to invoke the old cliche, a marathon. It is a tiring degree, a worthwhile degree, an enriching degree, but by all accounts a wearying degree. Take mandatory reading, for example. It's both helpful and harmful. It's helpful because you actually read the assigned material. It's harmful because you often read it quickly instead of meditatively. It's an imperfect system. In the end, though, one does learn a good bit, even if one is also learning so many other things (or trying to) that one tends to lose sight of all the learned material, even as one loses one's mind. It is at that point that one turns to blogging--you can see the fruit.

Seminary is difficult, but it is a blessing. I learned a great deal of Hebrew vocab this year, turned over the past century of American church history in my mind, pondered the insights of Aquinas, considered Bonhoeffer's views on works and faith, and wrote papers on exegetical disagreements regarding 2 Corinthians. All of these studies were overwhelmingly profitable. Yet seminary is a strange and warped world, one devoted to theology yet everywhere related to grades, one encouraging deep meditation while at the same time creating great pressure, one enabling the creation of friendships yet regularly preventing their cultivation. We are in a strange place, we seminarians; we are bursting with passion yet stalled in our hopes, desirous of completion yet unsure of the future, dedicated to personal edification but often struggling with the impulse to compete. We are young but old, old but young, mature but immature, over-confident but afraid.

In all, the life of the seminarian is a strange one, a rich one, a memorable one, yes, but always a strange one. We're all in something of a halfway house, and we all want to be out of it, but yet we sometimes want to stay in it. If the Christian is between two worlds, then the seminarian is between yet two more--the world of the church and the world of everything else, and so life is both exciting and daunting, promising and foreboding, comforting and frustrating. Such is the life of the seminarian--blessed, difficult, exciting.

2 Comments:

Blogger Adam Winters said...

Nice work, Owen. Poetical even. I can certainly sympathize with your joy and frustration. You should get Dr. Mohler to hand this out to all incoming first year studetns at initiation... granted of course it doesn't scare them off! Keep up the good work.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Paul Cable said...

As an "incoming first-year student," I appreciate the wisdom, Owen, and have often wondered how Ashley and I will handle the increasing demands on our time as we prepare to straddle the "two worlds." Nice post

2:17 PM  

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