I first started thinking about graduate school as a freshman in college. I sat in the bleachers of our little gym on campus during the Convocation that very first week. I sat near the back, because I always sit near the back. As the music began, I watched a retinue of professors stride through the doors dressed in regal robes and wearing a variety of colors, hats and mantles. I think it began in that moment. I didn’t even have a friend on campus to whisper to, but I thought to myself: Someday I’ll wear one of those.
Kelsie and I used to joke that we would pick graduate schools based on colors and that PhD programs would have to match. After all, some of those outfits were atrocious. For three years I dreamed of programs. I put those dreams away when I dated Anthony, it didn’t seem the right time and plan. But when things didn’t work out and I found myself bored at work, I began dreaming again.
I waffled for a short time in my head. Politics? Theology? Both? In the end, I opted for Theology. I feel more at home in the church than I do in the halls of the legislature. Calvin, Saint Bernard and Hildegard, these are my friends even more so than Locke, Hobbes and Tocqueville (though these I love as well).
And there was more to it than just being bored at work. When I was bored at work, I just quit my job. I could have found another–perhaps even one that would have used my degree or at least interested me. And when Pakistan didn’t work out for a short visit, I needed some other new direction.
I had spoken over several months with a variety of “Christian” friends. So many of them were burnouts. And some of that burnout was from a lack of education. This became a pet peeve of mine regarding the church. I began to see that the body of faith promised things that were not given us in Scripture. We advertised the happiness, the joy, but we ignored what Bonhoffer would call the cost of discipleship. We forgot the sacrifice, not only of the cross, but of the apostles and the early fathers.
And so my friends were burned out. I saw a church stumbling to figure out how it could educate its youth, and wondering if the future was as grim a prospect as some predicted. I looked at education (more widely than just in the church) and saw a system that taught to exams. We didn’t teach people to think or engage. We taught them to regurgitate.
That seemed wrong.
God gave us these minds, these brilliant things that help to define our purpose and identity as “image bearers.” Having a mind, as well as as a soul, is one of the things which makes us created in His likeness.
We ought to engage. We ought to think. We ought to be educated.
Dr. Davis always said I had a teacher’s soul.
I’m in seminary for these reasons:
the outfit I’ll someday get to wear. The hooding ceremony.
the chance to learn and be challenged intellectually.
the privilege to teach and educate the next generation.
We ought to know theology. I think we should have it ground into us from the day we’re born. Almost every day I ask the little girls I nanny: do you know who loves you the most, the most, the most? Sierra scrunches her nose and looks confused. Lily giggles because I usually do it while bopping her nose with mine or tipping her upside down. I also have to tell Lils that she may not throw a fit when I tell her no. I know she doesn’t understand this at barley 15months. But I also know she will someday. Because though Abba loves her, she has to know that disappointment is part of life, this side of the Fall.
The Fall! Even that is a theological term.
So you see, we have to have it taught to us. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus the Christ? How does it play out to be image-bearers and peacemakers? Should we have churches and what does the liturgy signify?
If we want a future to the church, we should know.
And so, someday, I plan to don–not only the mantle of this seminary–but the robe of a PhD program and shake my little tassel with pride, and then I will interview for a job where I’ll teach. And I will never myself cease to learn.