08 December 2015

on seminary and tunnels

I came to Seattle Pacific University because of a direct call from God. I entered seminary because of a call. Yet what I’m learning is that a call is not a guarantee. You have to cultivate a call. You have to nurture it, pluck away the weeds from around it, water it, and protect it. But it’s worth it.

I thought that because I was called that I would love every second of it. But that hasn’t been the case. It’s been hard. There have been so many times where I wanted to quit, where I thought that I wasn’t going to make it. And to a certain extent, I still do. However, what I know to be true is that I’m not doing this alone. I have a crowd of witnesses around me, encouraging me and supporting me, cheering me on.

At SPU, one of the undergraduate traditions during graduation weekend is a ceremony called Ivy Cutting. It takes place in Tiffany Loop, one of the central locations on campus. Tiffany Loop is like a town’s “Main Street”, it’s an identifying marker of the school. All the graduating seniors gather in the middle of campus—far enough away from Tiffany Loop that it is not visible. The graduates then enter the ceremony along a sidewalk that leads into the Loop. But this walk is not the solitary walk of the formal graduation ceremony. No, this walk is crowded and noisy and wonderful. You see, the sidewalk leading into the Loop is lined with every professor and staff person. As the graduates walk, the professors and staff cheer and hoot and holler. This is a moment of celebration!

Tonight I was reminded of that ceremony in a conversation with one of my professors at the end of the class. We were talking about some of my struggles in seminary. He said, “You’re too valuable. We’re not giving up on you; and we’re not letting you give up on you.” Seminary is like that entrance into Tiffany Loop at Ivy Cutting. Yeah, it might be more like crawling than walking and the path may seem more like a climb up Mt Everest than a paved path, but it is lined with professors, staff, colleagues, classmates, friends, and family.

Often we use the language of tunnels to describe the timeline of a journey. The person who just finished the last quarter of classes is at the end of the tunnel. The person in the last year of classes can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've gotten into the habit of joking that I'm in the middle of the tunnel with no end in sight, that there doesn't even seem to be an end. But my metaphor is missing a crucial piece. My tunnel is not a lonely tunnel. I have a crowd of witnesses attesting to the fact that there is an end and that I'm not alone. I am the one who has to walk the journey, I am the active participant in my story. But I am not alone.