“What do you plan to do with that?” As a woman pursuing a seminary degree, I am often asked this question. No, I don’t want to pastor a church. I honestly can’t think of anything more frightening, for all kinds of reasons. Hopefully, I won’t be called to remote parts of the earth on mission. I actually like running water and conditioned air. I surely should not be a counselor. Believe me, my advice is probably not what anyone needs in a crisis. But I do want to know God and for me, the best way to know this God I love is to study his word in a systematic and thoughtful process.
Understanding the centrality of the Bible in the life of a Christian, I felt defeated because I struggled in women’s Bible studies, starting many and finishing few. I loved the sweet fellowship, but then I’d pellet questions at the leader, expecting her to spoon feed me answers that I should have been willing to wrestle with and search the scriptures for myself. (Let me take this opportunity to publicly apologize if you’ve ever had to suffer my arrogance as one of my leaders in the past.) Then to make matters worse, I decided to try it on my own. Walking the isles of my local Christian bookstore for resources made my head want to explode. There’s so much out there that it is almost impossible to navigate it all intelligently—books on systematic theology, biblical theology (What? Shouldn’t all theology be biblical?) and my personal favorite, everyday theology (Are the others not for everyday?). Then there are countless commentaries, study Bibles and Bible studies. I blindly bought a few, some written specifically for women and tried them for about one minute before I found myself in shallow waters or worse, the dangerous waters of human opinion and self promotion, if not outright heresy. I knew there had to be a better way.
Confession time. I am in awe of those of you who have been successful in your own way–just you and God, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the Word. I really am. I know beautiful, Godly women who seem to just naturally ooze biblical exegesis from their very pores and form sound theology in profound ways. If, instead, you are like me, a seminary program provides needed structure, makes resources available, and gives opportunities to discuss the hard questions with trustworthy seasoned professors and fellow Christians who are working thorough the same scriptures.
I understand that I am outnumbered in this field. Roughly only a third of seminary students are women. And like many women, packing up and moving to live the typical seminary life on campus was not an option. Mother of five children, active in my community, with a husband whose business required my support at home, I began to research online programs and was thrilled to find many options available. I laughed when I read that the degree could be completed in two years, knowing that this busy season of my life would require a one class at a time approach. Yes, I’ll graduate one day, but that’s not really the goal. The goal is what Paul prayed for the Colossians–to “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (1:9-10) No way that’s happening in just two years anyway. I need a lifetime. We all do.
It has been hard, time consuming and more than humbling. Just navigating the theological terms that first semester was daunting. And the books! There are stacks of them all over my house that my husband and children have to step over. But something very sweet happens in this process that makes it all worth it. It seems as if every topic and verse of scripture suddenly becomes exciting and new, drawing me to my Savior in a fresh and loving way. The more I come to know about this God I love, the more I want to know. I may have to listen to lectures at midnight when I can’t sleep or in the car between errands to the grocery store and parent-teacher conferences. I often have to make the choice to write a paper or read the next book in the scarce leisure time of my life, but somehow it works out. God blesses our efforts to know him because he is the God who wants to be known. If you are a busy woman who is considering seminary, let me encourage you to trust God to meet your needs to make it happen. It may be one of the most profound steps you ever take to know God and to be prepared to serve him in whatever he calls you to do.
Back to answer the question, “What do you plan to do with that?” I have some ideas, but I’ve come to understand that simply answering the question is what I am called to do. Everyday. No more and no less. It is the question the Spirit asks of every Christian. What do you plan to do with the spiritual wisdom and understanding available to you in the Bible? What do you plan to do with the holy love we have in the Father, the salvation accomplished in the person of the Son, and the revelation by the Holy Spirit in the living breathing Word of God? Then, with this spiritual wisdom and understanding, what do you plan to do as an active participant in the Church of Jesus Christ? Isn’t that what we are all called to answer, male and female, seminary or not? Growing in the knowledge of God, to be the instrument through which His will is accomplished is what this woman in seminary is planning to do, one class at a time. Just in case you were asking…