I have an old roommate from college; we just got back in contact after a few years of us doing our own thing. Every time we talk, he says something to the effect of, “You’ve been in school the whole time I’ve known you.” The sad part? He’s right. I’ve been an adult for 16 years. For eleven of those, I’ve been in school one way or another. And I’m going back for more.
Why? Because as I continue to grow up, my focus has changed. I originally wanted to be a pastor and thought that a 4-year degree crammed into 6 years would give me the training I needed and wanted to do the job. But during college, I had some bad experiences and left the organized church, and I found myself working in a boys’ home. I rationalized by citing how much time I’d have with the guys vs. a typical youth pastor, but I knew I was lying to myself.
After 5 years in that field of work, I was drained emotionally. I dreaded going into work. I loved the guys, my coworkers were alright, but I had 2 kids who weren’t seeing as much of me as I wanted them to. Around that same time, I met a leader who challenged me to be bold and daring, to take risks. His message encouraged me to go back to school and attempt to re-enter the ministry. So I looked into seminary.
Why seminary? I felt like I had lost a lot in my time out of school. I had become an alcoholic. Spiritually, I wasn’t really disciplined. I thought that entering a program would help me recenter myself and help my family. I’d received some interest from a church needing a pastor, and I was excited about teaching and learning and leading and all the things! Turns out, I was a bad student and being pastor only lasted 2 Sundays, less than 14 days total.
That humbled me pretty quick. I spent the next couple of years just odd-jobbing it at churches. My old pastor called me in to be the youth pastor at his church. I did that for a couple of years, but the group never really grew. In fact, by the last few months, I was working with a college and young adults crew. Which attracted the attention of another church. So, by the end of my 3rd year, I was working in 2 different churches (and not getting paid).
Honestly, we were having good results, and my grades were getting better. Around this time another church reached out to me, or I reached out to them to ask some questions, I honestly can’t remember. I would up passing the leadership of one college group to a competent young man, and shutting the other down as most of our group had moved on to other churches, most of them in ministry in one way or another. That new venture lasted all of 6 months. I graduated seminary without serving in a church after that. But I found out that I love teaching.
So now, I’m heading back to school, armed with an MDiv, trying to earn a less popular degree known as a ThM (or a Master’s of Theology). This is a one-year program that hopefully will help me get my foot in the door of academia and university teaching. Because of all the life that happened during my initial run in seminary, my grades weren’t spectacular (still a B average, though). I applied to a couple of Ph.D programs, only to find I wasn’t qualified (see meme above).
I keep going back to college because my adulthood is constantly evolving. The things I wanted for my life haven’t always played out the way they should have or at least how I wanted them to. But, that’s the thing about education: the more you learn, the more it changes your beliefs and perspectives. If I met 18-year-old me, I’d probably slap him for not reading more and only understanding the world he grew up in. Not that it’s his fault. The world was smaller then (I didn’t have internet access until college):
– Young me had never known and conversed with a gay person.
-He’d never been to the opera or ballet.
-He’d never had a failed relationship.
-He’d never gotten in trouble.
-He’d never cried with someone after a divorce or the death of a loved one.
-He was perfectly naive and sheltered.
I miss him. But, if that kid met current age me, he’d probably call me a liberal who sympathizes with “sinners”, because I’ve seen the struggles now. I’ve struggled myself.
-My heart breaks for and with those who are hurting and addicted.
-I see those who have lost everything to depression and emotional illness.
-I’m living the broken life with them.
I still hold my biblical values, but my view of God has gotten a lot bigger and my hope in grace has grown, to the point that I realize who I am, and I cling to that hope of grace like a drowning man to a life preserver. I’m more comfortable now in who I am, and I think young me would respect that.
I’m growing and changing as a person, and as I do new things, I find more and more what I want to be when I reach my final form. In the last year, I’ve eaten new things, tried stand-up comedy, taken over homeschool duties, liked yoga, and so many other things.
Why do we continue in our education? Because we all learn, whether we’re in a classroom setting or not. As you live, you grow. So take a chance on something new, something you’re afraid of. I choose to continue finding myself because I believe that’s what God made us to be: men and women who grow and learn and change.
Dance like nobody’s watching, kids.