This past week, I graduated from seminary.
It doesn’t really even seem all that real. For a number of reasons. Mostly, because I have been in school literally, all my life–except for the two years I wasn’t in preschool, and let me tell you, my grandmother had plenty to teach me in those two years (including the art of drying apples in the sun. We also watched a lot of soap operas. That’s besides the point, though.) But besides that, well, i’ve been in school. In elementary school, and clubs, and academics, and middle and high school, and college, and campus ministry, and seminary.
A long time in seminary. I worked really hard in high school – mostly because I knew that was the road to college. Getting good grades, and getting a scholarship, and moving away from home. And, I had a lot of fun in college. And i wanted, in my heart of hearts, to work with a non-profit, and pour out my life for the sake of the kingdom. And so I went to seminary.
And seminary, it was hard. I almost quit. I thought I’d never make it through. I kept waiting to flunk out. It wasn’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination. But I pushed forward, knowing that what was next would be good.
And now, i’m in “what’s next,” and mostly, it’s scary. You see, at some point, I fell in love with theological education, and school, and my seminary friends, and life at Beeson. And I graduated, and moved into the real world, and discovered finding a job is hard, and find myself, well, missing seminary already.
It’s hard to keep faith some days. It’s hard to cling to joy. It’s hard to trust.
i’ve been reading a lot of Genesis lately. it’s one of my favorite books of the Bible, partially because there is so much drama, but also partially because it’s so beautiful. God picks Abraham–he chooses him, out of all the people in the world–and makes a covenant with him. And makes these incredible promises.
I’ll make you a great nation (even though Abraham had no offspring, and his wife was barren)
I’ll make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
All peoples of the world will be blessed through you (talk about some incredible ministry)
I’ll make your name great and give you a land, a land that I will show you
These promises seem extraordinary, but when they’re coupled with the circumstances that Abraham in particular faced (he was old, and his wife was barren, and God was calling him to leave his family, livelihood, and the only land he ever knew) and i have to admit….i would probably have questioned God like Abraham. And take the situation into my own hands, to gain my own heir, and try to fix things on my own.
I have to admit, that’s the seat I’m in now, in some ways. I spent the last four years of my life picturing how perfect things would be when i graduated. I pictured myself in the perfect job, with a salary (to pay off those student loans!), and to be honest, I pictured myself married, and stable, and living in my own house, and having everything figured out, and having it all together.
And, well, at this second–none of those things are true. I share in renting a house with friends. I’m incredibly single at this moment in my life. I have a part-time job that I thought would be a mission field, that has just turned out to mostly be misery. And I thought I would be so happy to be done with school, and so thankful for all of that to be over. But instead, I’m just sad to say goodbye and to see something so wonderful and beautiful (even in its difficulty) end.
Most of these things, I’d like to change, and on my own terms. I’d like to get rid of my part-time job and get myself a full-time, real job, working at a non-profit, and making a real difference in people’s lives. I’m not quite as desperate on the single front, obviously, since I’m still at the point in my life where I’m making fun of websites like reformedsingles.com instead of posting my profile on them. But, I guess, the point is that sometimes, it feels like things will never change. Like I’ll always be sitting on my couch, blogging, wishing someone would pay me to write something profound, or like I’ll always be at the part-time job I can’t stand, or like I’ll always be single and have these frustrating desires for relationship and family and being intimately known.
And I guess this is where I come back to the Abraham story. And I come back to my own calling. And I come back to the longings in my heart, and my desire for ministry, and service, and family, and I have to trust that God is at work–even when, especially when I can’t see it. And even when it seems impossible, that he could work and show up and move and do something beautiful in my life, which seems so broken most of the time. And I have to believe that God is faithful to continue the good work that he began, and that he is sovereign, and that he is in control…no matter how many times I flop in a job interview, or tweak my resume.
And the truest reminder of this doesn’t just come from the Abraham story, but the reminder that–greater than my jobless problem or single problem or whatever issue it is that I’m facing–I’m also a sinner, in deep need of a savior. Abraham’s true seed, his true offspring…it wasn’t just Isaac, but a spiritual seed–his name was made great and his descendants are many, and all peoples are blessed and are children of Abraham…because God, through Christ, chose to make atonement for our sin. He chose to invite us, even the Gentiles, into his family, by means of the cross. His faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham was greater than even Abraham could have imagined!
If God chose to send Christ for me, in my imperfection, to adopt me into his family, and if I can trust him to forgive my sin…then surely I also know that he is before me. That he will never forsake me. Even when it means difficulty. Even when it means hardship. Even when it means waiting and everything being so unclear. He promises that he is faithful–and more than that, he also promises to give himself. And for now (and always), that is enough.
And so in the season of waiting, I want to count the joys. The beautiful high schoolers I get to spend time with each week–because I don’t have a full-time job. The friends I get to see and meet for lunch. The sweet moments of writing on my couch, for free and for fun. The wonderful people i get to live with, in my favorite house, in the first place that has felt like home in a long time. I wouldn’t have that opportunity if I was married. And the wonderful friends I’ve made along the way, and the opportunity for great theological education, and being able to celebrate, even when saying goodbye, moving on, and changes are sad.
And I want to trust the Lord and his goodness. That he will provide, how he sees fit. That he has a bigger plan. That he is making me more like himself through this entire process, and that he promises never to leave me, never to forsake me, never to give up on me. That he is present in the big, exciting, beautiful events like graduations and first jobs and marriages and weddings…and that he is also here, when I sit on my couch and write for free, and dread going to work. That there is something good ahead, that I can’t even imagine. And that for now, and for always, he has given me himself.
for this new day i give Thee humble thanks; for its gladness and its brightness; for its long hours waiting to be filled with joyous and helpful labour; for its open doors of possibility; for its hope of new beginnings. (john baillie, a diary of private prayer, 17)
note: there are a ton of other pictures from graduation, but my blog is having trouble loading them at the moment. i uploaded a few, and then it stopped working…but check out the others on Facebook!