In January 2001, shortly after meeting the woman who became my wife, I made the boneheaded move of telling her that my dream was to live by myself, with a dog, near a lake, in upstate New York. Not exactly ambitious, let alone inviting. Praise God that never happened. However, I never would have imagined that the Lord would guide my life as He did over the last two decades.
For years I really struggled to discern my calling.
That’s not true, actually.
The reality is I knew my calling; I just struggled to obey – to submit to the Lord’s leading.
In my experience, many would-be seminarians find themselves in this same spot as they consider taking the plunge: called to seminary without knowing exactly why or what the end result might be. Can one be confident and yet full of doubt?
I think this delicate situation is important and valuable. The hesitation to follow when our minds tell us to go another way is something we see many times in scripture as God calls various people into ministry. Moses, Jacob, and Thomas, come to mind.
This is something I see clearly now. Back then I was torn. Half of my resistance was that I had my own plans. I had thought them through, and while they were ostensibly depressing, they were also solid. They were what I wanted. The other half of my push back was against an inner, spiritual call. I’m not big on emotions, and so when I felt a stirring in my soul to go to seminary rather than law school, I balked. But eventually I listened and followed.
I’m glad I did. Not only because my own plans for my life were absurd, but also because the Lord’s plan for my life has been a wonderful, challenging, hard, and yet fruitful experience. I cannot begin to imagine the depths of nonsense I would have created through the inevitable cascade of bad decisions I surely would have made. Nor could I have dreamed of what was to come.
Early in my new role as president of Knox Seminary, I took time to reflect and ask the Lord for guidance. Through prayer and scriptural reflection, through stopping and listening, I came to write down these four words: Remember. Reduce. Rely. Rest. I must remember God’s faithfulness while reducing my own sense of self-importance. I need to rely on Him alone and rest in His grace.
Seems I’m learning the same lesson over and over again. These are the very things I had to learn when I felt called to seminary. I didn’t know what was going to come. I had no idea the Lord planned for me to manage a sports bar for two years after graduating with my MA in Exegetical Theology, nor that I would go on to pursue further degrees, nor become the president of a seminary. Part of me still clung to my own bad ideas and plans, but slowly and faithfully the Lord led me forward (with me bucking and resisting at points along the way).
There are naturally a lot of questions when considering seminary. Will I do well academically? What will be my job when I’m done? How will I ever get through Hebrew? But I think the most important question is this: is God calling me to this? For those considering seminary, may I offer a lesson I’m still learning? Remember God’s faithfulness. Reduce the value you place on your own desires. Rely on His gentle leading. And, of course, rest in His grace.
To learn more about how Knox can equip your calling, contact us! We’d love to hear from you!