by Brian Hayes, Staff Writer
My time in Divinity school has felt like being led into an abyss. I approached this educational experience with the hope of illuminating my faith and vocation. I have instead found myself walking in the dark. Hoping to become more established in my theology and career path, I have been utterly deconstructed and completely undone. So many of the understandings of God, self, and others I wore when I first arrived here have been shed for new and unfamiliar clothes.
I currently resonate deeply with the Israelites’ experience of wandering in the wilderness. Leaving a shaky situation of oppression, they had high hopes of moving somewhere sure and stable. Instead, they spent 40 years as nomads in the desert. Numbers 14:2-3 reports their frustration: “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword?” At this time in my educational and professional development, I find myself asking God the same essential question. Why would God bring me into this Divinity school abyss to be left confused and lost in the chaos? What do all of my new understandings mean for me practically? Why have I come this far only to have no idea where to go next? Am I even supposed to pursue ministry as a vocation? Will I even use this degree?
With these questions and more constantly swirling around in my head, I feel like I’m blindly taking steps without the slightest idea of where I’m going. Deep down, I know this doesn’t have to be viewed as the crisis that it seems. There is some vital truth I know within the core of my being that I am striving to cling to at this time:
1) The abyss isn’t a bad place to be. My deconstruction and undoing is a sign of growth. I am being transformed. As painful and disorienting as that is, the new clothes I have embraced are truly a more accurate expression of who I am. I have been led here for a reason.
2) My M.Div. will matter. Regardless of whether my vocation will be ministry by name, it will be ministry in practice. Even if I do not pursue a job that hinges on having an M.Div., my Divinity school journey will infuse whatever career I embark on with deep meaning and purpose. I have been led here for a reason.
3) God has never left me. As J. R. R. Tolkien writes in the poem “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter” in The Lord of the Rings, “not all those who wander are lost.” Even while I have been walking in the dark, the light of God has been with me all along. God’s presence has been a constant reality for me even when my bewilderment has hindered me from recognizing it. Because of God’s faithfulness, there is meaning in my meandering. I have been led here for a reason.