Starting Seminary Year 4 of ?

For the last couple years I’ve been blessed to be a teaching assistant for first-year Theology at Multnomah (actually co-TA, as Kari does most of the paper-grading). Once or twice a semester I get to fill-in for our prof and teach (preach!) on Soteriology, Ecclesiology or some other section in our unit of systematic theology.

Inevitably, my intro includes a reminder to proofread their papers (Please, I beg you!), mentioning that my aim in life is for the Gospel and being a faithful husband and loving father, and the little caveat is that while I am an MDiv student teaching you today it is likely that some in the room may graduate before me. I am totally serious.

This week marks the start of our fourth year in seminary, out of only-God-knows-how-many. It is formally known as the first term of Fall classes at Multnomah. On Tuesdays I have Preaching in the morning, Greek in the afternoon. The Hermeneutics/Bible Study Methods class on Friday will include most of those same students that I’ll be grading papers for in Theology. That’s technically a first-year (first semester) course, but I’m just getting around to taking it in my fourth year. Yeah, the Registrar knows me by name, always taking classes out of sequence.

Detour: When the Journey Twists and Turns

Ryan has chronicled his 6-7 year journey to arriving at seminary here and here, and first day in class about seven months ago — back when we all knew him as “Just a Guy.” He is especially encouraging as he (and family) can empathize with enduring trials and disappointments.

Come what may, one thing you can bet on is that things will not go as planned. Since you’re in seminary it’s probably unwise to bet ( = gambling), but perhaps we can all relate to the setbacks to flying through our graduate training in the Word. When we look on page whatever of the course catalog we normally don’t notice SF 101 The Triune God Rocks Your World. Spiritual Formation (seminary-speak for ‘growing like Christ’) comes in all shapes and forms, and God the Spirit will use any means necessary to form us into the image of the Son (Romans 8:28-30; Colossians 3:10).

Yet these trials are minor and brief and certainly not strange (1 Peter 1:6-9). Christ suffered and endured in infinitely more ways that we ever will, and we get to taste a bit of His love in the midst of following in His steps. (And let’s never forget that suffering comes before glory — Romans 8:14-19.) For the Apostle Paul, sharing in the sufferings of our Savior was the height of all Christian experience, knowing Christ (Phil. 3:7-11).

Pausing and Restarting

So, I better wrap this up. Actually, for me this is more like year 3.2 of seminary. After our first year, we were had our first big surprise: first baby on the way! So I continued working full-time in a construction management/engineering career, but dropped my classes for the year — seminary was on pause. Had to forfeit my scholarship for the year (which I later found out was given to my best friend; God knew He needed it more.) That was 2006-07, perhaps my best year of ‘school.’ During that year as ‘not-enrolled’ I was able to devour a stack of books waiting to be read, reflect on the Word more devotionally, take a summer course, and began to see my job as a mission field and not just a means-to-an-end. When our son was born, Kari took a full year off in there too.

This Fall is her last in-class course, and I’m gearing up to grade papers of students who may yet still graduate before me. As we embark as a family on “year 4” — pregnant with baby #2 — so grateful for Christ’s sustaining power, the fact remains that the Object and chief end of our journey is HIM, not us. That is why the process is so vital.

Oh, that the life and character of Jesus would be formed in us!

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Written by jeff-patterson
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