Every seminarian remembers visiting their seminary for the first time. Everything on the walking tour is mesmerizing. You crane to take it all in as you revere current students that pass by (secretly wondering if that could ever be you) and hang on every word from your tour guide. You’re on complete sensory and emotional overload—and loving it. A few months later and there you are: a real, live seminary student.
It’s common for us to have unrealistic expectations in new situations but perhaps none is like going to seminary. The new seminary student’s preconceived ideas about campus life take on an ethereal vividness. It’s not a college, it’s a beautiful place full of books about the Bible; where everyone is as bright and pleasant as your tour guide was and a coffee spring flows out from the campus bookstore. Surely this place must be the ‘third heaven’ Paul talked about, right? It isn’t long before you learn this is definitely not that place.
The first weeks on campus can be hard on a new student. Seminary students can be just as clique-ish and rude as anyone else. Even Christian faculty can have huge academic chips on their shoulders, and the topics of lunch time conversations can be flat-out shocking. The myriad life changes that got you to seminary are hard enough to deal with, but then the realities of on-campus life can quickly lead to discouragement and regret.
As your personal tour guide to the realities of first-year seminary life, I have good news: There is hope. Remember: God has you there so that He can shape you into the person He wants you to be, for His glory. You’re the clay and the Potter’s wheel is just starting to spin. Here are five helpful ways for you to get your bearings:
- Talk to the Lord about your cultural shock. While you are surprised by it all, He isn’t. You’re going to find yourself struggling to maintain your quiet times with the Lord amidst all your studies, so take your burdens as generous blessings that lead you to get alone with Him.
- Be the light in a dark place—serve, love, and smile. It might surprise you to think of seminary as being a mission field, but it can be. Instead of hardening yourself against rude people, open up to them. Look for opportunities to lovingly serve them. Everyone enjoys a breath of fresh air; your enthusiasm to be there and genuine love may be just what someone needs. Again, if nothing else, it’ll help you be more like Jesus.
- Apply what you know about people. Jesus said that there’d always be tares among the wheat. Undoubtedly there are seminary students and faculty alike who are not even born again. Also, Christians are still sinners. Until we are with the Lord we are growing in holiness. Remembering these truths and applying them to your relationships will go a long way towards teaching you mercy as you learn to extend it to others.
- You still live in a fallen world. Much like “C”, keep this in mind. If you haven’t already, you’re soon likely to get frustrated to discover that your school can have its own bureaucratic red tape and redundancies. Misunderstandings, miscommunication, and a complete lack of communication do abound on campus. One day Jesus will do away with such remnants of Eden’s curse, but not yet.
- Watch your pride. By now you might be thinking that you’re such a great person that you bet the Lord sent you to that seminary so He could use you to fix all of its people and problems. Well, He hasn’t. In fact, to someone else, you’re one of them! It is dangerously easy to become prideful. Don’t. The Bible says you are a slave to Christ and to all men, so jettison the âttitude, joyfully reach for the basin and towel, and go enjoy this new adventure the Lord has given you!