I'm not going to say that I hated school, I really didn't. I'm not going to say that I loved school, I really didn't. Highschool was ok, I guess. I'm definitely not one of those folks that wants to go back and do it again, but it wasn't too bad. College was, well, it was college. The first few years were pretty rough. I just wasn't into the whole school thing anymore. I had other things on my mind, but I got it done. It only took me 14 years but I got it done. Then came seminary.
I have to say that it wasn't what I expected. My first class in seminary, very first one, was under Dr. Parrish. I was expecting an old man in a brown tweed jacket with tan suede elbow patches, horn rimmed glasses, and a comb over...in walks this guy with a pony tail, T-shirt, and flip flops. I thought, "I like this guy. This is going to be alright." And it was. Most of my professors were absolutely great. I was pushed away from my lifelong image of God as this old white guy with a long white beard. I was pushed into thinking theologically about everything. But most importantly, I was pushed into looking at the world through a different lens. It took me 5 years to finish seminary, but it was life changing.
It's an 87 hour program. Most Master's programs are 32 hours or so, mine was 87. I have never been more glad to finish something than I was the day I walked across the stage and Dr. J handed me that degree. 87 hours of class time...5 years of making at least one trip a week to Memphis...but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Funny thing is, when I finally got that folder with my name on it followed by "M.Div," I thought I was done learning. I thought I was through being taught. Not so much.
Psalm 143 says, "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground." I have found, though, that learning to do God's will, and then following through with what you've learned, is not always popular, but I don't remember reading anywhere that it would be. I think that is what makes my job so cool. I get to stand in the gap, every week. I get to stand up for the underdog. I get to spend 40 hours a week, at least, trying to make a difference, and I love it. I'm constantly amazed at who God uses to teach us God's will, and sometimes it's not at all who you would expect.
Dr. Parrish taught me the stories behind the story. Dr. Hudson taught me to see the sacraments in the day to day. Dr. Ramsey & Dr. Schaller taught me how to love my people when their worlds are crashing. Dr. Minor taught me to think against the grain, as uncomfortable as it might be sometimes, and I could list so many more that taught me so much...but, then I had a class with Dr. Gathje. You've heard me mention him before, just not by name.
I learned a lot through lectures and class discussions in most of my classes...I admit that I got nothing out of small group work (hated that)...but I was really taught how to do God's will through the hands on stuff. Working with the hungry makes you realize hunger cannot be part of God's kingdom. Spending time with the homeless makes you realize that there is no way God's kingdom has been completed yet, even though Jesus started it 2000 years ago. Talking with the oppressed makes you realize just how spoiled we really are. I would have probably done none of those things if I hadn't taken his classes.
But school is still in session. I'm still learning, and one of the things I'm learning is just how impatient I really am. I want everyone to be as passionate as I am about feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and making room for the least of these. But I've realized that not everyone has taken an ethics class, or a "food, faith, and farming" class. Not everyone has been taken to the slums of Mexico, or to the "hood" in Memphis, and therefore, don't have the same experiences I have. So, now, the student must become the teacher...with love...with patience...with a sense of call...with a hope of bringing THE kingdom, right here.