December 09, 2011
Author’s Note: Journeys are strange. You hardly ever end up where you thought you would, and you definitely never get there in the manner that you conceived. That has been as true for me as it was for Jonah the morning he woke up to take a leisurely cruise to Tarshish. Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series of blog posts exploring how I came to and through seminary. It’s a strange tale with no straight lines. But it’s my story, and it is the path that the Lord has led our family down. It’s not idyllic. I hope that encourages you. Also, in case you just joined the conversation, Part 1 can be found here; Part 2 can be found here; Part 3 can be found here; Part 4 can be found here; Part 5 can be found here.
In life, anyone can sprint. Anyone can give it everything that they have for short periods of time. Anyone is able to make a good first impression. However, the longer that we are around, the more we realize that, in order to finish well in areas of life such as our jobs, our marriages, and our friendships, we must learn to develop something that we are born without: Endurance.
At this point I would like to make one thing clear: I hate enduring. I mean, really, really hate it. Growing up my favorite sport was football. I still love it (Go Broncos!). But football did not help me to develop a great amount of endurance. Rather, it trained me to sprint for eight seconds, then take a forty second break while huddling together with my teammates and hearing what the next play was going to be. Endurance running was not fun or in any way desirable. It was a punishment. Did you drop a pass that you should have caught? Take a lap. Did you miss a tackle? Take a lap. Did you mouth off to the substitute today in class? Take eight laps. For those of you who did not play football Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Coach Herman Boone in ‘Remember the Titans’ is an accurate portrayal of this (“How many feet are in a mile, Petey!?!?!?”).
Enduring is not fun. In fact, for the most part those of us who are not masochists only strive to endure when there is something worth waiting for. My freshman year of college I began dating a girl who was a cross-country runner. One day, as I arrived at her parents’ home, she was leaving to train. Her: “Do you want to come with me?” Me: “No thanks, I’ve already worked out today.” That’s when her Dad decided to have fun with me. “What’s wrong, can’t keep up with my daughter.” This changed the game completely. I liked that girl, but not enough to run seven-miles in order to spend time with her. But her father had directly challenged my pride. Now that was something I would run for, and I did (Stupid? Yes. Augustine has a good explanation for such action if you are looking for one). Note here that our willingness to endure seems tied to how much we value that which we are working towards.
So, Brian, why did you write all of this? Is this just a disjointed exploration of your life?
(Haha! Take that again, Rob Bell. Random spacing to appear deep FTW!)
I write this to encourage you with three pieces of knowledge that I have gained from experience. First, going to seminary is hard. It takes every bit of endurance that you have – emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, and intellectually. And you have to go through this for an extended period of time. You will want to quit, you will think you’re not good enough, your wife and/or kids will become tired, and your friends will convince you that there are better things to do with your life.
But after you realize that, I want to encourage you with a second piece of knowledge that I have gained from my extended time at seminary. It is worth it. Sweet mercy, is it ever worth it. You see, if God is our great reward, our prize, then there is no higher honor that we have than to study his revelation to us. What a privilege.
And third, because of the great prize, we can endure. Without the great prize, it would be a complete waste of time.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Brian has an M.Div. (2010) from Gordon-Conwell’s Charlotte campus, a Th.M. (2011) in Historical Theology from the South Hamilton campus, and is currently strengthening his language skills while in the MACH program. He hopes to matriculate into a doctoral program in August 2012 that will allow him to continue in his study of the thought of Augustine of Hippo. He has a wonderful wife, three great children, and spent ten years in ministry to teenagers, primarily with Young Life International.