God our hope...even through seminary
Seminary. The word itself once inspired vision and missional enthusiasm. But "in it" long enough, 'seminary' echoed hollow like a long, lonely hallway of some academic institution...
This preparation for ministry--ministry still future, still hoped for. And the necessariness of this preparation--all too frequently called into question: Do we have to keep doing this? Is this really what God's called us to? Can't we just move on and start doing what we're going to be doing for the rest of our lives? And 'seminary' now conjures far different connotative emotions.
It's been tempting so many times just to quit. Just to move on. And we could. And I'm convinced it would be fine if we walked away right now.
But, for us, the just-when-we-need-it-most encouragements and the providential, timely path-smoothings have kept us going.
And I hope, for you, this post will be a just-when-you-need-it-most timely encouragement as I share a handful of things that I've had to be reminded of (still need to be reminded of) frequently along the way:
1) I have to fix my hope in God. My hope cannot be in a degree or some future ministry position. To be "in the ministry" must not become an idol, replacing the God it claims to want to serve. My hope must be in God. God, alone. Now. Just as in all the ministry years ahead. I must pursue Him, realize He's pursuing me. I need Him like I need air. It's essential that I stay close to Him, that I read the words He wrote for me, that I pray--a lot--pour out my heart--about everything.
2) I have to keep loving my husband. At times, this can be tough. 'Seminary' can get in the way--way too easily. Finances and time are most likely both limited. So we have to get creative. And we have to keep believing, he loves me. We're in this together. For better or worse. And, at this point in the game, it takes two to be awesome. He needs you. And you need him. Keeping your marriage strong is perhaps the most important way you can make sure you're ready for the opportunities of ministry God opens up for your family. Now and in the future.
3) I have to think right about 'ministry.' Ministry is not some future thing. Ministry is every opportunity God gives us to display His glory, love and righteousness to other people. Every day. Every moment. Ministry may be a conversation or a FB post. It may be holding the fort while your husband studies several nights a week, doing laundry, dishes, homework with kids... It may be loving your kids, listening, playing ball... which brings me to...
4) I have to love my kids. If you (like me) have kids during these seminary years, then you know they're feeling this too. And the older they get, the more they feel it. They're part of the team. And they're sacrificing during these years too. Talk openly with them. Let them weigh in. Make the moments you do have count. One-on-one date nights, one-child with one-parent, can be a simple but very special way to keep everyone on the same page. And if you've added kids along the way (like we have), then you've especially got to remember this next point...
5) I have to stay flexible, willing to change things up from time to time. Sometimes a total game-changer is in order. A late bedtime, a Sunday-night family night, a break from what has come to be accepted as our "norm." We've had several "new norms" along the way. Our schedule has, out of necessity, changed multiple times. When one or more of us is to a level of frustration and discouragement that is beginning to be immobilizing, it's time to stop insisting on banging a brick against our forehead and ask God to open our eyes to a solution. Earlier would probably be better. But sometimes we don't see it then. Once we see it--or feel it--then we need to start thinking outside the box. And sometimes, we have to totally break down our box and toss it out and get a bigger box.
6) I have to be willing to adjust my expectations. And this isn't just seminary, I guess. This is just life. Things don't play out the way we think. My "great expectations" are dashed a thousand times before they become even greater than I could've hoped for.
7) I have to choose hope. (And I guess that was my first point too.) But I have to choose hope. Again and again. So I'll leave this here. Because I have to keep my eyes on Jesus--not my circumstances. I have to choose to walk by faith--not sight. I have to let go of what I think--lean not on my own understanding. I have to trust in the Lord with all my heart and settle my hope on Him. He will not disappoint. He is our Hope...forever...even through seminary. Hang on to hope. And if you need a friend through these seminary years, I'd love to be that for you. You can message me through my author page on FB or email michelle [at] vineandshoots [dot] com.
Grace and peace,