Make Yourself at Home

by on June 27, 2008

In an earlier post, Ryan discussed how seminary can sometimes come to be viewed more as a means to an end or as a stepping stone than a time of formation and growth. Asking questions such as what plans we have after we are done with seminary only fuel this kind of perspective.

One of the problems with having this mentality is that you will not properly establish yourself in whatever area you move to in order to attend seminary. Understanding seminary as a stepping stone to something else will only lead you to view your whole life at that particular time and place as a stepping stone. You will never fully unpack the boxes, so to speak. Your apartment will be more like a hotel room than a home.

As a result, a few things might happen. First, you will likely not develop many solid and authentic friendships. Perhaps you are thinking about returning to wherever you came from, and so you focus your energy on maintaining those friendships and those ties. While there is not anything inherently wrong with this, it will keep you from building bonds between the people around you for the next several years. Those friendships are essential for getting through seminary. Your close friends will challenge you, encourage you, strengthen you, rebuke you, and just be there for you like your friends back home cannot practically do. If you do not establish those sorts of friendships, your time in seminary will be very lonely. If you are married, this will likely be an even greater struggle for your spouse.

Second, if you do not make that place authentically “home” for the time you are living there, it is likely that you will not develop the type of relationship with the church you choose to attend that you need to. You will certainly be a part of a church, especially as you are required to serve a certain number of hours as an intern at a church in order to get your degree, but you will not really become part of that church. You will do your duties, but you will miss out on the type of communal fellowship that belongs to the local body of Christ. Again, to miss out on this will make for a very lonely experience–not to mention the fact that this will seriously impede your spiritual growth and development.

These are only a couple of things that may happen if you take this perspective, but they are significant things. And while maybe you have plans to return to where you came from or to move somewhere else once you are completed seminary and serve in ministry there–and these plans are good–do not let them be your sole focus while you are in seminary. Cherish this opportunity with all your heart, and seek to immerse yourself in the blessings that come with being in this situation. Make it home for you (and your family) for the next few years, with all the connotations which that word conveys.

For some people this will be easier than others. If you have moved around a lot, making a new place home is maybe not that difficult. If you have lived in the same place your whole life, this will be more of a struggle. If you are newly married and this new place is where you are starting your lives together, the transition will be a lot easier. If you have friendships going back to your childhood, it will be tougher. But this is where God has placed you and has called you to for this point in your life, and you will mine all the riches of this experience if you allow yourself to. It may only be three years. But a lot can happen in three years. Grab hold of it.

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I should add a very important caveat here.

You can make all the effort in the world to make that new place you live feel like home, but if the place/people/culture/school/church/etc. do not make you feel like home, it is going to be a difficult time. I have experienced this to some degree before, and so I offer this caveat from personal reflection. Nevertheless, if would have to be a pretty harsh or difficult environment for your efforts to find this drastic of a failure. Sometimes circles can be difficult to break in to, but with even pushing and prodding, most of them can open up.

Jake Belders last blog post..Come Again?

Jake,

Well said. There’s one of those “happy tensions” again, where we need to be willing to allow ourselves to grow roots in a place, yet have an open hand if God wants to uproot us and do something different. Perhaps another metaphor could be “investing” our time in seminary (in others, in the local church, in our marriage and in spiritual formation) rather than “spending” it. (We invest in our homes, yet we merely spend rent.) Yet as you say in your caveat comment, sometimes you still won’t feel connected (like the investment is worth it).

Any suggestions for someone commuting an hour and taking about 5+/- years to finish seminary?

Jeff Pattersons last blog post..55 reasons why I love my Sauce – on our 5th