Sunday, December 18, 2011

Seminary: an Advent Time of Life

There are times when I look at my life and wonder, how did I get here?

Like tonight - I just spent the past two hours working on order of worship information for Christmas day and New Years weekend. If you would have told me even six months ago that I would plan a worship service around Christ's circumcision over planning one about the sacredness of a name, I would have laughed. Yet here I am, scouring through the hymnal trying to find a circumcision-appropriate tune while my parents watch re-runs of the Mentalist.

Last week was equally abstract. A group of us gathered together in an apartment to say goodbye to a fellow student who was returning to her home in Denmark. We ended up singing Christmas carols (in harmony no less!) for several hours, one even in Danish. Prior to seminary, I never experienced caroling that happened outside a youth-group visit to a nursing home.

These moments are not things I ever thought I'd experience in my life, mostly because seminary is nothing like I had anticipated. I come from a very blue collar town, where most people have been struggling to make ends meet after the steel mill closed a few years back and the car factory underwent layoffs. I had no context to envision a life at a divinity school in Chicago. Now that I'm back home for the holidays in a city of multiple part-time jobs and Auntie Annie's Pretzels, I realize that an average American town isn't the normal I expected it to be, either.

Being a seminary student is like living in a perpetual state of Advent. The transition between our current state into our future is wonderful, beautiful, and a bit scary. It's a balance between the assumed normalcy of our past and the anticipation of our future. It's a balance between television reruns and Revised Common Lectionaries. And much like the season of Advent, we don't really know how it's all going to play out.

As much as I wonder how I got here to this moment in my life, I'm really glad I made this journey. I used to be a person who was so absorbed with the planning that I couldn't smell the roses. I needed to know the next step so badly that it prevented me from being engaged with people in the sacredness of the moment. Before seminary, I never would have spent an evening singing carols because I would have spent that time working. I never would have thought about picking the harder passage to study because I would have been too scared to take the risk.

Tonight I give thanks for the Advent times of our lives. As I wonder how I got here, I'll continue to praise our God who is teaching me that not knowing all the answers can be a more fulfilling way to live.

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