A Rough Seminary Semester, Part I

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This past 2011 spring semester (January – May) was rough. A lot happened in that five month span. I knew it was going to be busy since I was taking four classes in addition to my family, job, deacon duties, my daughter’s high school graduation and a teaching assignment at church.

I began to feel the weight of the semester at the beginning when I found out how much reading and writing two of the classes required (these were week long intensive classes). Not long after being home from the one week intensives a friend’s father committed suicide. In light of this horrible event my school work load was suddenly not such a big deal. This was a tragedy, to be sure, but the grief was not as heavy as it could have been on me since it was not my family.

Heavier grief waited its turn.

I stayed busy cranking out book reviews and reading as much as I could. I was also struggling to keep up with creating lessons for the church class I was teaching on Wednesday nights.

Then, God blessed us with a pregnancy.

My wife and I were so happy! I’m not sure I’ve seen my wife happier. A lot of this happiness was from the fact that we had to stop trying for a baby two and a half years earlier due to my wife’s back being injured in a car accident.

My level of responsibility at home happily increased. We were making plans for the baby that would come in nine months. We were looking forward to our coming sporadic human alarm clock. We were happy. The future looked bright.

Then, at about eight weeks into our pregnancy, God took our baby through a miscarriage.

We were devastated. The weight of grief and loss hit us like a hammer that had been accelerating downward for two and a half years. We were both hurting, but it is hard to express how we felt at the time. I did find an author who expressed my own feelings pretty well though. He wrote the following from the context of vocational ministry which gives a description of how I felt spiritually.

But something, somewhere, went awry. The zeal fizzled. The fire in my bones became only an ache in the joints. My running became plodding. My lightness became heaviness. My joyfulness became jadedness. I joined the ranks of the murmurers and faultfinders – those who didn’t like the music or the sermon of the color of the azaleas behind the church – and I found their number legion.

And I got stuck.1

I had broken down on the path that God had clearly set for me. I had come to a fork in road in which I saw as having only one way to go. Well, there was another way and that was to turn back. I wanted to turn back. To give up. How in the world was I going to tend to the spiritual needs of my wife and do all of this less important stuff like work, seminary and such?

I started thinking about school in light of my spiritual growth. Was seminary helping or hindering my walk with God? What was I hoping to get out of seminary? What do I expect going forward? The same author quoted above provided more relevant words.

We go to Bible college, hoping that will inoculate us against spiritual languor, will create in us robust faith. But many theological schools and Bible colleges are built on borderlands. There is a danger in such places that we will learn much about God and at the same time grow distant from God; we will study the intricacies of doctrine, but lose passion; we will become eloquent at God talk, but cease talking to God.2

I read both of Buchanan’s quotes after the painful events described above. They made sense. I felt his comments. Last semester was a long five months. I wasn’t sure how I would make it through. Add in all of my responsibilities and my survival rate wasn’t looking good. My ability to keep up with my responsibilities were shot. I struggled to care for my wife.

But God is good and He cares for His children.

I’ve never felt the weight of these words from Scripture more than I did during this time.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a ESV)

I had nothing, but Christ. I had nothing to offer my wife, but Christ. The Lord brought me through this tragic time and taught me many things.

To be continued in part 2.
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  1. Mark Buchanan, Your God is Too Safe (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2001), 10.
  2. Ibid., 20.
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tagged as in Gospel,morality,need,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David R. Brumbelow August 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Mark,
Sorry for your loss. Praying for you and your family.
David R. Brumbelow

2 Mark August 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Thank you, David. I appreciate your prayers. God has brought up closer to Him since our loss in the past few months.

3 Ray Carroll August 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Mark,

I know the struggle you’re going through. I wrote a post on it once upon a time – http://tinyurl.com/3kuc3dc.

There are moments, if we’re not careful, when we can go from adoring God to studying Him as an object. Seminary isn’t built to cater to our devotional needs. That’s something we have to do on our own. Especially when tragedy strikes us from every angle. That’s something I know a lot about as well.

Protect yourself, my friend. Have close friends and mentors you can draw near to and rely on. It doesn’t get any easier, but with the right mix of adoration for God and a close network of people to rely on, it can be fruitful.

4 Christiane August 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm

the lessons that come from life’s ‘seminary’ are also to build you up to help people better with a compassionate heart given to you by God’s providence, painful though it seems at times . . . trust God, and pray the Psalms

you will understand some day better about these burdens, but for meantime, be trusting

I am sad for your loss (the baby) and I will pray for you to be comforted, in the way of my faith

5 Mark August 23, 2011 at 11:46 am

Ray,

Thank you for sharing. Your post is a wonderful example of God’s grace. Great insights and food for thought. A blessing. Thanks for stopping by.

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