Earlier this morning I finished my exam for World Religions and am officially finished with my third semester of seminary.  It was a difficult semester, to say the least, filled with stress, lack of sleep, approximately 7 pounds of coffee (pre-brewed), some poor food choices, internal (and external) debates, and plenty of tears.  Here’s what I learned:

I learned how money – and the lack thereof – can affect my life.  Through a series of unfortunate events, my student loans weren’t disbursed until mid-November.  While I was able to take a small advance on it, by the grace of God I was able to make it without.  I had my family and my church, who stepped in and helped me out when I needed it most.  I’m not out of the woods yet, but I have learned (again) to lean on God and trust that things will work out.  It’s difficult, stressful, and scary, but it will happen.

I’ve learned that Christian ethics is not so cut-and-dry.  While it may seem like the Christian answer is the right answer, why it is the right answer is much more difficult to verbalize.  It’s certainly easy to say It’s what Jesus would do, but why would he do it?  What compels that response?  What are the outcomes of such a response?  Is it the only answer, or are there others?  What if that answer harms others in the process?  It’s a difficult and challenging mindset when dealing with real-world issues.

I’ve learned that preaching is both one of my greatest joys and one of my greatest fears.  I love being able to share the word with others in that venue and it always challenges me to be my very best.  But it also scares the tar out of me!  There’s nothing more frightening than standing in front of a group of people, sharing personal stories, theology, and what the Spirit has placed in my hands, all the while attempting to make it sound pleasing.  It’s something I need to work on and it has exposed some of my weaknesses, but it’s an area where I know I’ll grow.

I’ve learned that the world’s religions are unique, impressive, and complicated.  It’s not so easy to explain the differences between Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism without having a lot of knowledge in all three religions.  While I know that my Christian beliefs don’t always make a lot of sense, it’s encouraging to know that every other religion is just as rich and complex.  There is beauty in all of them, there are places where we can find similarities, and we need to talk with one another more in order to drive out fear.

I’ve learned that I need to approach the bible with an open mind because there’s a lot that we don’t know. In my Mark exegesis course I was challenged by my professor who used ‘creative imagination’ in his work.  I appreciated learning this technique and how it can be a springboard to other ideas, but I also learned that I need to be careful with my imagination.  While the text has some holes that we can fill in, we need to be careful with what we’re using as filler.

Seminary is certainly one of the most challenging things I’ve been called toward, but it’s been worth it all.  I know I’m where I need to be, and I know that God is preparing me for something greater than I can imagine – the difficulties are temporary, but the reward is lasting.  May we learn more and more each day about our Creator, about one another, and about ourselves.

much love. sheth.

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