Monday, May 21, 2007

Seminary (BBB Part Six)

In some ways, my seminary years were a very difficult time for us. Not only did Jennifer have to work full-time, with Audrey going into day care, but I also had little time to spend with my family. The first year was especially challenging. I attended classes all morning, worked all afternoon painting seminary-owned houses and apartments, and studied all evening. During my first semester, I served as the interim music director at a small country church 45 minutes from Fort Worth. Since the church had services both Sunday morning and evening, we had to spend the whole day there each Sunday. In January, the church hired a permanent music director, and my service there came to an end. This left us very short on funds, and I had to take on all the extra work I could. I spent nearly every weekend doing odd jobs: painting houses, cutting grass, doing custodial work, helping people move, and filling in for absent preachers and music directors.

These were lean times, but God brought us through it all. I remember one time when Jennifer and I were coming home from church in the one car we owned, trying to figure out how we were going to put food on the table the next day, because our checking account was empty. When we looked at our back door, we saw an envelope taped to the door with twenty dollars inside. Typed on the envelope was Philippians 4:19: “My God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” This was exactly what we needed to make it to our next paycheck! And this was not a rare occurrence: mysterious checks and cash seemed to arrive with regular irregularity.

In the summer between my first and second years, I heard about a new Christian school that was about to open in a nearby town. I thought, “Well, I have no teaching credentials or experience, but I know an awful lot of Math and Science, so why not? I’ll apply.” I didn’t think I had any chance of getting hired. After I talked to the headmaster for about half an hour, he hired me on the spot. This meant a big pay increase, meaning that I had more time to spend with Jennifer and Audrey. Plus, the school’s unique schedule enabled me to teach only three days a week, so that I could take a full load of classes on the other two days. Each year, I was given an additional class to teach, resulting in still greater pay. Jennifer was even able to cut back to working part time after my first year of teaching. And, although I did not know it at the time, my experience of teaching Math and Science would pay off greatly in the future.

Other than the financial strain, seminary was a great time of learning for us all. I was able to immerse myself in my two new loves: Theology and Church History. I also was able to study Hebrew and Greek and other disciplines related to Christian ministry. Jennifer and I both participated in several in-depth Scripture and theological studies through our local church. Most significantly, I learned the importance of a daily time of prayer and meditation on the Scriptures, habits that have stayed with me to this day. My study of the Scriptures had a side effect that I had not anticipated: it raised many questions about the meaning of certain passages, questions that my professors and pastors could never answer to my satisfaction. Little did I know it, but these questions would not be answered until many years later when I discovered Orthodoxy.

As is true in many, if not most, Evangelical seminaries, my Church History professor spent very little time on Orthodoxy. My first encounter with Orthodox theology occurred in the fall of 1993, when I took a course entitled “Missions in Eastern Europe.” The professor, a Romanian Baptist leader, had us watch a film on the basics of Orthodoxy. I remember writing a paper on the film, in which I stated that some of the teachings of Orthodoxy sounded okay, but others (such as the doctrine of theosis) were clearly unacceptable in my opinion. The professor also required us to read The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware. Sadly, I had no interest in reading this book, so I whipped through the whole thing in a weekend. As you can guess, I didn’t get much out of my reading. This would be the only Orthodox book I would read until 7 years later, when I again picked up the same book and read it, with a very different result…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a convert to Orthodoxy "late" in my life, it sounds so familiar to have Othodoxy briefly touch my life as I go on in some other direction. Yet the purpose is there!
I may regret not having been Orthodox "all my life", but God has taught me many lessons along the way East.