Sunday, February 24, 2013

Not Quite The Virtuous Woman Hoped For

About a week ago my roommate Lauren and I were having a lazy Friday morning. It was around 10:30 when her fiancé, Sam, stopped by to say hello-- Lauren however, was still in her room. Laying in bed. Probably on Pinterest. I wasn’t really being any more productive though-- just drinking coffee and sitting on the couch. Anyways, the point is that Sam knocked on her bedroom door and said a little something like this: 

“Lauren, you’re still in bed? It’s halfway through the morning! What would a Proverbs 31 woman be doing right now???” 

For the record, Sam was joking... I mean, probably. I sat on the couch laughing and drinking my coffee and even though it wasn’t directed towards me, his comment got me thinking all the same. What would the Proverbs 31 woman be doing at 10:30 on a Friday morning? More than that, if I were living up to the standard set by this woman who puts all others to shame, what should I be doing at 10:30 on a Friday morning? I looked up the passage to check-- that should have been the first sign though, the original woman probably would have had it memorized already. I read the verses again and again and here are the notes I took:

Proverbs 31:14 “She is like a merchant’s ship, she brings her food from afar”
I don’t know if she’s being compared to a ship in size, but I have been known to carry a lot of snacks around. Even today I found crumbs in my pocket... and I’m not really sure what they’re from.

Proverbs 31:15 “She’s up before dawn to prepare breakfast”
Yeah... I think we’ve already established that I slept in until at least 10, and coffee was my breakfast.

Proverbs 31:21 “She has no fear of the winter...”
False. I’m from Florida. I love winter, but it scares the hell out of me. The only thing I know to do in the cold is not shave to get an extra layer of warmth. Which is what everyone does... right?

Proverbs 31:24 “She makes belted linen garments and sashes”
I once crocheted my friend a pair of soft, yet ill-fitting, underwear... So I’m pretty sure I’ve got this one covered.

Proverbs 31:26 “When she speaks, her words are wise and kindness is the rule”
...Maybe it would just be best to quit before I’m too far behind since answering this one isn’t going to score me any points.

To be fair, my idea of a household at this point in life is me and one roommate, no pets. Reading this passage as something to aspire to reminds me of the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote-- “It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being.” I’m inspired by all the things I know I am not, yet I don’t know if in the process I will ever fully get there. For now, I’ll start with baby steps-- even if I have absolutely no idea what those are. 
I know that even if I’m never the ever esteemed Proverbs 31 woman, God still wired me intentionally, if not a bit spastic and clumsy. 

So Lauren, my dear roommate, I think we’re in the clear. Let our lazy Fridays continue!

Friday, February 15, 2013

When Seminary Doesn't Stop The Doubt

I think when I started seminary I secretly believed it meant my issues would magically resolve on their own. I thought that since I was trusting God enough to uproot everything I knew and loved, I would feel like I had arrived to the place I always belonged and that everything I did would be exceptionally fulfilling. More than that, I think I wanted to believe that in loving God and loving others well, everything in my life would start to make sense. That all of my questions about life, God, and broken people would suddenly be answered.

In complete honesty though-- the longer I'm here, the more I realize just how broken I am. I had deluded myself into believing that seminary would stop doubt from ever seeping in. But I have cracks and leaks and although they start small, without even realizing it, they grow and doubt begins controlling my thoughts more than I'd like to admit. Some pieces to life just never seem to fit right.

You see, no matter how much time I spend with Jesus, the world is still a broken place that's really hard to live in some days. I'm still a sojourner. In my naivety, I thought that seminary was a cure for this but in the last year and a half I've seen a lot of hard, horrible things happen and I've had a lot of moments where I question what God is doing and why certain things in life have to be the way they are. Thoughts, fears, and deep seeded insecurities won't disappear over night. They certainly didn't get left back home when I moved across the country for school, and won't go away until they're addressed now in the present.

I wish I could say that being in seminary has brought me to a place where I don't have doubts anymore. What I'm perpetually rediscovering is that hard things are going to happen no matter what season of life we're in and we won't always (if ever) understand. That's when I need to cling to God the most.

Doubt is real, but so is hope. So I respond by seeking God. Seminary may not have been the missing ingredient in the elixir that I was hoping would bring my life to a perfect place of peace, but life here has definitely helped me realize my desperate need for a Savior all the more. I think Brennan Manning says it best in this quote:

"We presume that trust will ease confusion, dull the pain, redeem the times... Our trust does not bring final clarity on this earth. It does not still the chaos or dull the pain or provide a crutch. When all else is unclear, the heart of trust says, 'Into your hands I commend my spirit.'"

With that, I leave you with this song by Noah Gundersen. I am pretty sure I've listened to is 1,000 times over the years and it never ceases to grab me. We're naturally inquisitive beings, and that's okay. Let's live in a world where we can openly admit that we have weaknesses and doubts, knowing that God is bigger and working in the midst of it. Let's journey on together.

Monday, February 11, 2013

When Your Only Valentine is Jesus...

Here is an obvious statement... Valentine's Day is this week. Which for many, means a time of candy hearts and eating your feelings. Personally I've never been a big fan of the holiday. My philosophy is this: I can't even remember to feed or bathe myself, so it's probably for the best that I don't have to celebrate this one.

This is my second Valentine's Day since being in seminary-- a place where young love abounds and sometimes it seems like people go out for coffee once, then decide to get married. Living in the singles apartments tends to make it even more of a dark mark on the calendar for a lot of people around here. In this world people often look at us (alright, maybe just me) like something must be really wrong since we're single. There seems to be a constant flow of justification and pity comments. Around Valentine's Day though, the statements get a little more ridiculous. Here are two of my favorites:

1. "My valentine died on the cross for my sins..."
Let's think about this... I don't think Jesus is really your valentine. He doesn't show up at your door with chocolates and a balloon or sing you cheesy love songs. I feel like if you're saying that, although well intentioned, you may be more single (and probably lonely) than the rest of us.

2. "Jesus thinks you're beautiful..."
I could be wrong, but I feel like the second half of this sentence is "....and He's the only one." Surprisingly enough, this doesn't esteem us girls as much as you may think.

All this to say... we know we're single. But even for those of us that don't mind it, we don't need the constant reminder. It's really isn't that helpful. Call it Valentine's Day or call it Singles Awareness Day but it's definitely an awkward day for many people. I've just come to embrace that fact.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Necessary Clarifying Statements...

1. The goal of this blog is not to hurt or offend anyone. It's just a place to tell the stories of well intentioned people and how poorly I interact with the real world. Who can we laugh at if not ourselves, right? My intention is never to come across as bitter, jaded, or ill-willed and sometimes my thoughts get the best of me and I phrase things poorly. Please accept my apology in that. It happens more than I'd like to admit.

2. I'm not the average seminary student. Which I'm okay with. It just gets me into more awkward situations than I was anticipating upon my arrival at school. I've had people tell me I stand out simply by my hair... I didn't even know that being blonde could render such results!

3. I love being in seminary. Did I ever see myself attending here? Not at all. That doesn't mean that I'm not thankful for the opportunities given to me. I mean really, until I started classes here there was a whole world of theological issues that I didn't even know I should be passionate about. On a regular basis I am overwhelmed by how much I don't know about so many things in the world. This is a great season of life and is perfect for an old-souled bookworm like me.

The world we live in is such a curious and intriguing place and I'm trying my best to figure it out just like everyone else. Below the Bible Belt is merely a way for me to process and laugh a little bit along the way. Please know that my heart behind this is not to bash a fantastic school or hurt the feelings of others. I just enjoy joking about the quirks in life. Join me along the way.

Man Shall Not Live On Pastors Alone...

I am a counseling major in seminary. Specific to the school I attend, this is one of the longer and more involved degrees offered. Now, I realize this seems like it's not that big of a deal but it's important to know how many stereotypes there are about our counseling department. When I've told people what I'm here to study I've received two responses more than any other:

1. "Cool, so that's an easy program. You're only here for like what, one year tops?
2. "Oh, so you're really working on your MRS degree, right? (Twice there was a creepy wink involved)

Most everyone here gets some level of crap if they aren't working on their Masters of Theology (ThM). It's a prestigious degree and requires four years of schooling, but doesn't necessarily require you to be able to carry on a normal conversation-- there are plenty of great people in the program (trust me, I'm friends with them and they're awesome!) Sometimes though, other people here are viewed as slackers for choosing a different degree plan. I'd argue that being a female in this environment makes it even worse because people believe that we would rather sit around and talk about our feelings all day than talk about Jesus.

A few days ago I was talking to a ThM student about a book I just received for class. It's about 940 pages, called Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and it's published by the American Psychiatric Association. Sounds like a blast, right? Well as I'm talking to this student about how important, yet boring the book is we equated it to the Hebrew textbook he had in his hands. Suddenly he says: "Well, at least mine is studying the Bible, right?"

Maybe he meant it to be the silver lining in having to study so much, but I just thought he sounded like an ass.

Listen, I get that being able to translate the Old Testament is a big deal... but only in a certain world. We need more than pastors in the world. We definitely need more than pastors with poor social skills. We need Jesus. It takes counselors, teachers, hairstylists, and even garbage men to spread the hope of Jesus a little more. Believe it or not, you can still be the hands and feet of Jesus without writing a dissertation about covenant theology. At the end of the day, we all just really want the same thing-- to share our hope with a broken world.

Pastors are no closer to Jesus than the rest of us. For our school specifically, most all of the degree plans have a lot of the same core requirements when it comes to Bible and theology classes. So although we may not all be ThM students, I like to think that we still have something to offer. Even if it is a little less douchey and pretentious.