As I’m tying up loose ends, and closing this chapter of my life, I’ve been reflecting on “what happened at Seminary?”
I know it wasn’t me that wasn’t ready for Seminary…. Maybe, Seminary wasn’t ready for me?
What I know about the nature of what is me, is that I search after the ‘real’ behind religious ideas. I search for what is real and true in just about everything, lol! I’m a natural contemplative, and am always engaged in reflection. This gets me into trouble more often than not…
What we say, what we do, what we believe, is all tied to what we ‘know’, or do not know, in the deepest parts of ourselves. Only this deep, experiential knowledge can adequately sift through the intellectual and emotional B.S. that clouds our perspectives.
My working assumption was that anyone ‘called’ to ministry, and vetted through the candidacy process, must have a share in this deeper knowledge. Because it was this knowing that led me to ministry. And… This is exactly where I came to realize that facets of egocentricism still ruled my own worldview. Because this was not at all what I found.
I found very little commonality with those around me. Including professors. It seemed that nearly everyone around me was in their own little world, and the only reason we were gathered together was because at this moment in time, Seminary somehow served our collective purposes. Purely human purposes.
What I know about the elusive ‘Body of Christ’, is that it unites diverse individuals with One Spirit. It is an amazing phenomenon, one I’ve encountered a number of times. (Most occurring outside of the church proper.)
My experience of being a part of this ‘Body of Christ’ changed everything for me. My quest to recreate it greatly influenced my pursuit of ordination.
I was understandably deflated by my experience at Seminary. I know how different it could have been… I saw only the potential, and lost sight of the actual, until it became actually toxic for me.
I tend towards naivety. I tend to see what could be, instead of what is. It is a pattern throughout my life. Being able to see the good in people blinds me to what is not good. Until I’m hit up alongside the head by it.
In retrospect, I ‘saw’ the red flags from the beginning. I just doubted the wisdom within me that appeared irrational and unverifiable. My intuition has always been spot- on. I just don’t listen to it.
I’m listening now. I’m learning how to make decisions in the present in light of its guidance. It’s scary. I know full well that I cannot see into the future. So, how is it that I possess inner wisdom that seeks to guide me away from impending disaster? Why is it so easy for me to ignore it? Why do I ignore it? Who or what taught me to do so?
Inner wisdom is something that was rejected as evil by my fundamentalist upbringing. I was told, over and over again, that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV).
What wasn’t taught to me, is the answer to this question, found in the very next line:
“I the Lord test the mind and search the heart” Jeremiah 17:10a (NRSV).
Nor was I encouraged to desire a faith like Jeremiah’s when he responds in verse 14: “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise.”
How could this happen, that my faith formation intentionally led me away from my self; from the very ground of my being where we are called to search out God and His Salvation?
I imagine it has to do with many things. Mostly power and control. Both of which transgress the interpersonal dynamic set forth by Christ at the Last Supper:
“A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” Luke 22:24-27 (NRSV)
Seminary was ultimately wrong for me. As is any church heirarchy that insists upon toeing of lines. I cannot in good conscience transgress God’s authority by accepting any authority that seeks to overrule His. I cannot relate to any group of individuals that make their decisions as ones in worship of superficial conformity. Unity transcends conformity, in breath-taking ways. Conformity stomps out all opportunity for transcendent unity in Christ. Real Unity lifts us above our differences in revealing Truth. That’s what I am ever on the lookout for.
Nothing less will suffice. Anything less is a waste of my earthly time.
Now, to further extrapolate on the idea that Seminary wasn’t ready for me…
This transcendent unity that is the intended relationship of the members of the body of Christ to one another, is grossly lacking in religious circles. We have an idea of it, but fail to know through our own experience and participation in it.
St. Paul says in Galatians 3:26-28: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ” This means that this oneness in Christ is independent of nationality, and socio-economic status, and gender.
It always ticks me off to read how certain scholars on the fringe try to make arguments against the validity of Jesus’ celibacy and singledom. It’s as if they could not fathom a depth of mutual unity with others of the opposite sex apart from engaging in physical acts of a sexual nature.
Well, it so happens, that this same kind of ignorant mindset set rumors in motion about the fidelity of my own marriage, after leaving Seminary. A lot can be said about me, as the ungodly woman, but infidelity is not one of them.
At first I was livid. Until it dawned on me how asinine those kind of rumors are. Because those that were spreading them must never have experienced a depth of friendship and connection apart from sexual relationships, so they had to assume that neither could I. This is exactly how the majority of the secular world views friendship and sexuality. That is overwhelmingly sad. It is also sorrowful to see such a blatant disregard for the sanctity of marriage among those in formation for spiritual leadership. That’s right. People studying to be pastors assumed my husband and I were getting freaky with another student based solely upon our close friendship and sense of kinship with someone outside of our marriage. Whatever. They have to deal with their own transgressions… And God has the final word on it all.
Yes indeed, my Seminary was not ready for someone like me. But I think there is plenty of room for someone of my spiritual identity in the world beyond the church institutional. I’m eager to watch where I’m led now that I’ve kicked the dust off of my sandals and am moving on.