Friday, August 30, 2013

Seminary, Year Four, Day One: Back to the Basics

Yesterday was the first day of my last year of seminary. Ironically (or perhaps not), I started it not feeling triumphant and superior, grinning down my nose at the cute first-years, but small and weak. More like a needy child, awkward in my attempt to do this whole "Christian life" thing, than an expert with all the answers. And as much as I know this is exactly how my seminary is teaching me approach a life of ministry, it still catches me off guard. Sure, I like to talk about humility, living into the reality that God is God and I am not, and ministering to others from a place of lowliness-- but deep down, experiencing that reality makes me uncomfortable. Because deep down, I like to be in control. I like to feel "good" at this, like I've got it figured out. I like to have the answers and have it together. 

The past month has stretched me in ways that have exposed my sin (living out of a suitcase makes me a pretty unpleasant person), my unbelief (when I get less than 7 hours of sleep, I throw in the towel on God's ability to sustain me through the day), my limitations (life outside the classroom reminds me that there are questions that I can't answer), and my need for a Savior (all of these things remind me that I'm not Him). And my despair in light of it all has exposed that in some ways, my deepest held belief is that I'm only as good as I perform. So if I'm going into vocational ministry but can't even perform "up to standards" as a Christian, who am I kidding? In other words, if I'm not "useful" to God, then what would He want to do with me?

But yesterday, God was good to remind me that my deepest held belief actually flies in the face of the gospel. In chapel, one of our professors taught out of Romans 8: "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” In other words, God reminded me that my performance is not the reason He loves me, and it's not what sustains our relationship. I'm not primarily God's employee or intern, working to earn a spot higher up on the ladder in His sight; no, I am His child. And that relationship is predicated not on my performance, but on His. He is the One who invited me into His family, because of His goodness and love-- not because of all the fancy stuff I know or all the talents I possess or all the good deeds I have done. 

And the major news for this fourth-year seminary student is: my call to ministry doesn't change any of that. This month has shown me that the extent to which I move forward with the expectation that ministry is about how well I "perform" as a Christian-- having all the right answers, being sin free, living above the limitations of a person in still in need of a Savior-- is the extent to which I will face nothing but disappointment and disillusionment. Why? Because a ministry that is about me and my performance is one that doesn't have much room for Jesus-- and He is the One we all need.

So as I complete my final year of seminary, will you pray for me? Pray that when I graduate and leave, my deepest held belief will no longer be that my performance defines me. Pray that my deepest held belief be that God's unconditional love defines me, and that His performance is what my ministry is all about. 

1 comment:

Robyn Miller said...

Dear Hannah, you have had a tough month. You have done well.HE is able to make all grace abound. HE ooves you--and I do too.
G.