There is a common misconception among Christians about Seminaries and seminarians in general. The misconception is that going to the Seminary gives one an automatic guarantee to be spiritual. In other words, people feel that by just being in the Seminary, one’s spiritual life gets an automatic ticket to blossom.
While there is a particular sense of truth in this assumption, experience has shown that this is not always the case in reality. While the Seminary provides a conducive atmosphere for the seminarian to grow more and more spiritually, there is no guarantee that this will always be the case.
One of the common temptations seminarians encounter is the tendency to be carried away by the rigors of academic demands to the detriment of their devotional life. I have come to realize that this temptation is subtle than most of us in the Seminary can ever imagine. But while commitment to academic work is worth the effort, that should not be done at the detriment of cultivating a viable spiritual life. The one is not a substitute for the other.
It is very easy for Seminarians to try to justify why they don’t spending enough time in prayer, meditation, solitude, fasting, and the observance of the spiritual disciplines. I have heard fellow Seminarians claim that their academic work is a legitimate substitute for personal study of the Word and prayer. Yet, even Jesus had personal times of prayer and meditation that required Him to be alone, away from the crowd.
Let us face it: Balancing our spiritual life and academics can be very challenging while in Seminary. We may even want to present very candid and legitimate reasons why we do not spend meaningful time with the Lord. But the fact still remains that it takes a conscious effort to be able to strike a balance between the two in order that one aspect does not suffer at the detriment of the other.
An effective way towards balancing our spiritual life and academic demands in the Seminary is to consciously set your priorities right. You must frankly ask yourself:
- Why am I in the Seminary?
- Is it to achieve my personal goals or God’s purpose for me?
- Will God be glorified if I achieve great academic success but don’t maintain a life of devotion to Him?
- Which one will God prefer, a servant who earnestly desires to surrender to his Master’s biddings or one whose goal in life is to be “busy” for God?
Asking these questions and answering them frankly is a step in the right direction in helping you set your priorities right as you seek to balance your spiritual life and your academic work while in the Seminary.
By Seth Kajang Bature. Seth is a student at Westminster Theological Seminary, PA.