Do any other seminarians ever feel as if your time in seminary is (or was) a sort of limbo (not “limbo” as in the Roman Catholic doctrine)? An in between stage? Or, perhaps a combination of the two? Well, if you do (or did), then hopefully you will find comfort knowing that you are not alone.
No doubt the circumstances surrounding each student’s time in seminary differ. One can look across the class and see an age range from 23 year-olds to some in their 50’s. Many enter seminary with vast experience in ministry, whereas others enter still wet behind the ears. To the degree that the circumstances differ from person to person, I’m sure the answers to the question above would correspondingly vary.
For instance, an individual who has much life experience, whether in ministry or not, might not see his or her time in seminary as being in limbo (i.e. an indefinite state). They may still have a career allowing only part-time status. This more “complex” life might then cause seminary to seem as just another part of the weekly routine. On the flip-side, there may be a student fresh out of undergrad who has zero “real world” experience and, therefore, might experience his time in seminary as an intermediate period before he enters into his vocation as a minister. In this “limbo” he may work a part-time job in order to support what he considers to be his “real job” ‘ his education.
There are of course other scenarios that could describe others’ situations, but the implications of whether or not a student sees themselves in an intermediate period and/or in limbo affects (either positively or negatively) how they approach his or her studies, the jobs they work (ministry related or not), and other important pieces to his or her daily life.
If one views his or her time in seminary as an in between stage (i.e. in between undergrad or a previous job and being a pastor) they may approach life in the here-and-now as if it can’t be lived fully. In other words, because what he is doing now isn’t where he’s ultimately going to be, then what he’s doing now somehow restricts him to live the quality of life he may anticipate he’ll be able to live once he becomes a pastor.
It’s almost like a long car ride to your vacation destination. Some may consider that car ride as a mere means to get to where they really want to be; therefore, the car ride is boring and/or loathed over. However, one can choose to see the car ride as an opportunity to be on vacation just as much as they will be on vacation once they get to the beach. The ride doesn’t have to be less lived, or enjoyed.
In essence, as this is considered, seeing clearly how we understand (and therefore handle) our time in seminary might produce some positive change to how we do life in general. It is not presumed here that all seminarians are victims to these kinds of thoughts and/or behaviors, but given the nature of how people in this culture commonly do life, surely there are some that fall into this pattern to some extent.
As much as it is true that attending seminary is largely a time of preparation for a future ministry of some kind (a means to an end), it is equally true that the here-and-now (including all of our obligations and relationships) should be approached with a full intentionality that allows us to be content with the life we are living.
Perhaps this boils down to the question: How do we handle seminary as a “means” and yet not error in taking the training lightly on the one hand, or on the other, allowing it to get in the way of the rest of our lives? Where’s the balance?