Tag Archives: seminary

Seeing Jesus

7 Feb

A couple months ago, I met Jesus face to face.  Before you get the wrong idea, you should know that this was not a vision or prophetic experience.  On the contrary, I encountered the Spirit of Christ in the actions of another person.  This encounter was so profound, that it continues to minister to me, and I’d like to share that story.

Last semester I took Greek with a professor named Brad Johnson.  With the exception of learning the Aorist tense, it was a fairly pleasant and refining experience I feel better for having.  When the day of the final came, my worst seminary nightmare occurred.  A snow storm started in Louisville around 4am.  My final was schedule for 8 am.  Normally, my commute is an hour and forty-five minutes.  I left at 5:45am, in an attempt to give myself some extra time to get to school.  However, the weather was so treacherous that it took me three hours to get to school.  If you’re doing the math, you will have calculated that I was 45 minutes late to a timed final exam. 

 I’d found out I was pregnant the day before, so I hadn’t studied as much as I initially intended to anyway, and now I’d lost almost half the amount of time allotted to take this exam.  Let’s face it- I was in a panic. I’d pulled over to email my prof about the weather conditions early on, but I had no idea if he’d received such an early morning message.  My anxiety was on a steady increase.  By the time I reached Lexington, I was so upset that I started crying… and continued to cry all the way into Wilmore.   After parking, I jogged from the car to the classroom.  I had no idea that I was about to encounter holy love in a tangible way.

When I walked through the door, I picked a seat in the back of the room, and frantically began looking for my pencil and whatnot.  Before I even sat down, my professor was at my side.  He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I got your message, but I didn’t email you back because I didn’t want you to be tempted to read it while you were driving. Don’t worry about being late.  Before you start the test, go take a walk.  Get a drink of water.  Calm yourself down.  It will be waiting for you when you’re ready.”  He said all of this with a gentle smile.  I know it sounds like a small gesture, but for me it was HUGE.  I’d spent the morning in a state of panic, but when I got there Brad was full of nothing but grace. When I went into the hallway, I was so overwhelmed by his generosity that I started crying again.  I knew that I had just experienced the love and mercy of Jesus at work in the life of another.  Before this experience, I’d known Brad to be a person of authentic faith, but afterwards, I realized what a holy person of God he truly is.  He showed compassion and mercy, when he didn’t have to.  He even gave me the full amount of time to take my test, sacrificing his own time for my sake.  

As much as I’d like to keep praising Brad for his behavior, I know in my heart that it wasn’t really Brad.  It was Christ, at work in Brad.  And when I left that day, I felt inspired by his example, but mostly I marveled at God’s transformative work inside us simple people.  If the Holy Spirit can exude from my professor, the Holy Spirit can also exude from me.  If Christ’s face can be seen in the gentle smile of a compassionate person, his face can also been seen in mine.  God really does make people holy.  The Spirit of Christ really does envelop willing hearts.  God really does meet us in our need (and everywhere else for that matter). And I really did encounter Jesus that day.

Thanks be to God.

 

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Pride, Humility & Seminary

8 Aug

Confession time- I struggle with pride. 

Perhaps I can best illustrate the intensity of this battle by sharing a humorous anecdote from my years in undergrad.  

I was taking a post- 1945 American History class.  We were discussing the changes that occurred on the American religious scene.  Naturally, Billy Graham was part of the conversation.  My professor mentioned something about Graham still being alive.  Now, please keep in mind that Bill Graham was ancient on the day I was born.  So by the time I was old enough to discuss his ministry in HISTORY class, I just assumed the man was already kickin’ it in Glory with Jesus.  I told my professor as much.  He assured me the good Reverend was still living, and I assured him the man was deader than a door nail.  Obviously, I was mistaken, which wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if I hadn’t also said, “I’m a youth minister.  Religious stuff is kind of my thing, and I KNOW he is dead.”  A classmate settled the debate by googling Billy Graham and confirming that he was, in fact, still alive.   

I was humbled that day, and rightly so.  I needed to be knocked down a few pegs.  Little did I realize at the time, that the experience of being humbled was to be repeated over and over again when I went to seminary. 

When I started at Asbury, I was the most theologically minded person I knew.  I loved to study Scripture, church history and I’d even read a few books by legitimate scholars (granted I didn’t understand most of them).  I knew I had a great deal to learn, but I never imagined the sheer magnitude of what I didn’t know.  There were things I’d never even thought about- let alone formed intelligent opinions on.  On top of that, I’d picked up enough bad theology that I had almost as much to un-learn as I did to take in. 

I’ll never forget my first day of seminary.  The professor of Inductive Bible Study (David Bauer) recited half the New Testament in Greek.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but that’s what it seemed like at the time.  Then I went to church history and realized many of my classmates knew who Dr. Collins was talking about when he dropped names like Origen or Tertullian. Heck, I was still pronouncing Augustine the same way I say the name of the town in Florida (August- een instead of A-gust-in).  The day finished off nicely in “Foundations of Youth Ministry.”  My prof for that class went through the syllabus and explained we were going to write a paper describing our theology of youth ministry.  In the midst of that conversation, he used words like soteriology, Christology, incarnational, pneumatology- and probably a few others that I couldn’t figure out how to spell.  To my embarrassment, I had to make a special appointment with Dr. Hampton just so I could figure out the fancy theology terms that went along with the ideas I had. 

For me, seminary was a lesson in humility.  I’ve heard many a fellow-seminarian remark that one class or another was “humility 101” for them.  My whole first year in seminary was humility 101, 201, 301, and 401 for me.  In fact, by the end of my first semester, I was only convinced of three things.  1) I loved God more than ever.  2) I was in precisely the right place, at the right time, and 3) I still had so much to learn.

But a few more years into this process, something has happened.  Instead of seminary feeding my humility, it now has a tendency to feed my pride.  You see, all those words I didn’t know in YM class are now part of my everyday vocabulary.[1]  I’ve read the works of those church fathers I’d never heard of, and even though I still can’t recite the New Testament in Greek,  I can find all the structural relationships you want in a pericope.  See, I even use the word “pericope!”

All this knowledge has made me a better student and preacher of God’s word.  It’s definitely made me a better follower of Jesus, but it’s also given me another notch in the proverbial belt which I am constantly tempted to show off.    Even this week, I almost pulled out the “I know more than you” card in the midst of a disagreement over a passage of Scripture.  Thankfully, God gave me the self-control not to do that, but the inclination was still there.  The experience sent me into some prayer and reflection, and God reminded me of this truth, “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble,” (James 4:6).

I’m not sure whether to call for a collective “Amen,” or “Ouch” because I suspect I’m not alone in this.  When we commit the sin of pride, we’re not just putting ourselves in opposition to God, but we’re also putting God in opposition to us.  That’s not the place I want to be in

So my prayer for this semester is that God allows me to approach my theological education with the same sense of wonder- and humility- that I did that first day.

What makes your pride rise to the surface and how do you stay humble?


[1] When you marry a seminary trained academic, theology and philosophy are everyday topics.