The things they do (and don’t) teach you in Seminary

Just so you know, I waited to write that last post until after I was out of my little breakdown “moment.” Trust me, you DO NOT want me writing in the moment. What I write in the moment ain’t pretty. It isn’t truth either. It is simply a moment where I am trusting my feelings and not my God. I also neglected to mention that during and since the time period that is covered by that last post, I did receive a promotion at work and am no longer working in the warehouse, but am working a little closer to my comfort zone in dealing with farmer and public relations for our company. I also received an email during that time asking if I could return to the Motherland (AKA Africa) for few weeks this summer…to which I had to restrain myself from catapulting out of my chair with excitement as I read the request. So, as downtrodden as I felt, there was definitely some positive juju coming my way during that time as well.

So, yeah, in case you’ve been living with your head under a rock and haven’t realized it yet, this past semester was not fun. It was not pleasant. I did not enjoy it. I told myself when I left Africa that I would come to one semester of seminary and then see where I felt led after that. I didn’t want to think about anything or make any decisions before the end of the semester – I was just going to give it time to sink in. And not think about anything is about what I did. Somewhere around the beginning of March, I just went on ahead and switched off emotionally and mentally as I slid headfirst into survival mode. Survived. That’s a pretty good description of what I did this past semester. I ignored anything that required too much thought or effort or embracing of reality. I had one goal and that was to make it to the end…I didn’t really care how I did that or what my life looked like when I got there. That is how you end up in breakdowns like the one written about in the last post. Ha! But, now school is out for the semester and I can breathe again and I am planning on very much enjoying my summer until the torture session begins again sometime around mid-August.

I’ve met many people along the way who when they hear that I spent two years in Africa, reply with something along the lines of, “Oh, I could never do that” or “I’m not cut out for that kind of life.” After one semester of seminary, I have decided that maybe I am just not “cut out” for seminary. Send me back to Africa any day, but please, please, please don’t make me endure another semester of seminary. Alas, another semester is what I need to get my credits, so another semester it will be. *Sigh* I have a little less than three months between now and my next semester and I am praying for some major heart and attitude changes between now and then. Whether I like it or not, I will begin next semester with a smile on my face, and hopefully in my heart as well, because Lord knows I need a better semester than this last one.

In the times that I most disliked school, my mind would automatically start compiling a list of all of the things I would rather be doing than enduring another semester of seminary. (And I can’t even tell you how many times I sat in class wishing I was learning about cattle instead of the end times). My list of preferences included getting my face curb-stomped into the pavement, being water boarded, listening to fingernails on a chalkboard for hours on end, and being trapped in a room with a crying baby. Yep, I enjoyed school that much. But, come on people, how in the world are you supposed to enjoy taking 6 verses of scripture and writing 12 scholarly and educational sounding pages on them? And for those of you who liked to share (not-so-helpful) stories about how when you were in school, you just rambled on and on for pages and filled your papers with fluff…save it. You can’t do that here. This is not an opinion paper or your thoughts, this is the Word of God that has been studied, analyzed, and interpreted for 2,000 years and you better have something intelligent, academic, and scholarly sounding to put in that paper. Every word I typed was research-filled, agonizing, and painstaking. When I think of the pain that each word caused me, I think back to where Harry Potter had to write sentences for Dolores Umbridge and with each word he wrote, he was actually etching the words into the back of his hand using his own blood. I feel like Harry and I had a very similar experience. Dramatic, I know.

I don’t know what I expected when I started seminary. I really don’t. I have sat in a church pew most of my life – please, who am I kidding, I went the semi-pentecostal route, so I sat in a church pew almost none of my life, but I was up in the church house regularly even if it was sans pew – and I was not prepared for the vocab thrown at me as I casually strolled through the doors of the seminary 5 months ago. Here are a few of my favorite terms that are thrown around this place seemingly with the assumption that even children in kindergarten know them:

Hermeneutics – the art of text (i.e. Biblical) interpretation. Hermeneutics is the title of one of my classes, so when people ask what classes I am taking, I have to say the word and then immediately define it. Why couldn’t we just make this simple for everyone and call the class what it is, Biblical Interpretation?

Canonical – the books that have made it into the approved canon that makes up the Bible. I understand the word “canon” as it relates to the Bible, but it sure does sound funky when you put that “ical” on it – to the point that every time I hear it spoken for a brief moment I freak out internally wondering what the professor is referring to in a manner that says I should already be familiar with it until my heart stops beating out of my chest long enough for me to realize that I do know the word, it is just pronounced differently when used as an adjective.

Exegetical – in short, it means to critically explain or intepret a text. As in, I had to write two 12 page exegetical papers on scripture this semester. In doing so, I was exegeting scripture. You exegete [ek-si-jeet] scripture, but you write an exegetical [ek-si-jet-ic-al] paper – yet another example of a word that sounds completely different once you put that “ical” on the end of it.

Eschatological – the study of the end times. But, that “ch” comes out like a “k” so watch yourself on that one.

And my favorite example of what it is like interacting with people who interact with these kinds of words every day was when I was discussing with another, much more educated, seminary student about how I didn’t understand much of the language and vocabulary used in class, to which he replied, “Yeah, many of the classes are pretty esoteric.” Exactly. I have no idea what you just said. In discussing how I have no idea what half the words these people use mean, you use a word that I don’t know what it means. Thanks for the help buddy. I’m going to go back to South Georgia and talk to some people who are more on my level. I can understand the “used-to-coulds” and the “might-shoulds” the “reckons” and the “fixin-tos.” I’ve got that vocab nailed down and I’m thinking that I might stick a little closer to that vocabulary and the people that speak it in the future.

Speaking of words that you learn in seminary, one of my favorite chapel messages this year was regarding the words that they don’t teach you in seminary. If you get a chance, you should definitely check out this message from Nik Ripkens on what it is like to work as a missionary in Somalia.

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© 2020 by Katie Murray