January 13, 2012
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; Part 6 can be found here. Part 7 can be found here.
After realizing that I was being called to a vocation of scholarship (which I wrote about in my last post in this series), a lot of changes came quickly for my family. Having gone to class part-time while working for six straight years, I was finished with two-thirds of my M.Div. My wife had a wonderful job as a nurse, and we decided to cut back (significantly) on our expenses so that I could attend school full-time and finish my M.Div. within the next year. After ten years in youth work, I notified the organization that I worked for (Young Life) that I would not be returning the following year, and they began a very healthy and patient process to find someone incredible to replace me (he is). It was an exciting time, but it was also a bit scary as we stepped away from our previous life and towards school – not knowing exactly where all of the finances that were necessary would come from.
Not everything about the transition to that final year was smooth or exciting. Learning to study again at a full-time pace was difficult – it took nearly a year for me to fully shake off the rust and get into a good groove. Our three children had spent most of their conscious moments in our town, but with a 2 ½ hour commute to Charlotte it seemed like a foregone conclusion that we had to move (from a house to an apartment…not as fun when your family is now five instead of two). We had wonderful friends in the area as well, and leaving them was heartbreaking.
I could probably continue this post and give a gaggle of details that mean a lot to me but not as much to you. But, since I remember the days that my wife first took me to her hometown and I was caught in massive groups of people that I didn’t know without any possible way to remember all of their names or the stories surrounding them, I won’t. Instead, I want to encourage you with one story…
Although many things were hard and difficult, God gave our family an amazing year that final year of my M.Div. I had considered it a foregone conclusion that our family was moving to Charlotte, as difficult as that was. My wife, however, felt that God was going to open up a way for our family to stay in the area. We lived in a beautiful resort town, and the cost of living there combined with travel expenses made staying financially impossible. So my wife prayed while I chuckled and worked on logistical issues. And then, right when we were preparing a trip to look at apartments in Charlotte, God came through with a miracle (O, me of little faith). While volunteering at our Young Life fundraising golf tournament, my wife began telling our story to a donor who had come to the tournament to share her story about becoming a Christian through Young Life when she was in high school. She asked how much we could afford (it was miniscule), and then said that she had an idea. A few days later she called my wife and invited her to come take a look at a rental home that they had, one that they would rent to us within our tiny budget. The house was huge. And gorgeous. And in a great neighborhood. In fact, we had never lived in such a wonderful home. That was the beginning of a wonderful year for our family – one that allowed us to stay within our community in a beautiful home while I was in the midst of a vocational change.
I am not telling you my story so that you think “God will give me things if I go to seminary!” Those of us here know that is not the case. In fact, I have never had less financial margin in my life, and I am going into this final semester at GCTS hoping that I will be able to pull together all of the loose financial ends. I am writing to encourage you that, if God is calling you to seminary, you should go. If you’re already here, figure out a way to stay (if the calling is from God). It looks bleak, and it won’t turn out the way you envision, but he knows your future, and he knows exactly what you need, when you need it. For our family, it was a house for a year. For you, it is probably something quite different.
Oh, and don’t chuckle at your spouse when they are praying for something.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.“ Proverbs 3:5-6
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.
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