My first year of Divinity School ended this week. The end was a doozy.
Over the past month, I took two in-class exams, completed a take-home exam, prepared and preached two sermons, wrote two lengthy research papers, read, studied for exams, attended class, and wrote six shorter papers.
I blogged about religious liberty, discrimination against gay couples, sympathy for those with whom we disagree, what the Bible says about homosexuality, the immigration ban, and books.
And I practiced law, traveled to DC for a reception with one of the federal judges for whom I clerked, attended a great arts festival, attended a talk by a Christian Palestinian who pastors a church in Palestine, had lunch with some of my clients, worked for a couple of civic boards on which I serve, attended a board meeting, attended chapel at school twice a week most weeks, spoke on patent law at a seminar, prepared and facilitated a discussion for our church small-group, and enjoyed with my family a end-of-the-year banquet sponsored by the Divinity School. Also, I tried to be a good dad and husband.
“Yikes!,” I said. “This is hard.”
“Cry me a river,” Tracey said. “You chose this program.”
It Was Not All Sunny
I was not superman. To my regret, the three-times-a-week exercise program that I maintained through the semester went by the wayside in April. I missed my firm’s partner retreat (New Orleans!).
I missed haircuts (hair in eyes, not quite 1986 length in back, but moving that direction). I skipped church twice to study for exams. I missed an Easter gathering with family.
I was distant and distracted a few times when Tracey or our kids tried to engage me. I caught a virus. My little corner of our house was a pig sty. And it is hard to be a good friend when you completely disappear from your friends lives for a sustained period and don’t return phone calls timely.
Thus ends my first year at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity!
I started in August with a lighter load while still working full-time as a lawyer and transitioned to being a full-time student and a half-time lawyer in January.
I am working towards a Master of Divinity (M. Div.) degree, a three-year professional degree in Christian ministry. It combines the academic end of religious studies (Biblical interpretation, Greek, Hebrew, ethical philosophy, history of Christianity, understanding Islam, Judaism, etc.) with the practical and professional end (preaching, pastoral counseling, handling weddings and funerals, practical application of Biblical text, internships at churches, hospitals, etc.).
For my lawyer friends, the degree program is analogous to that of a law degree, but the degree is called a Master’s degree rather than something like Juris Doctor.
I am enjoying my time at the school immensely. At 48, it is good to know that it is not too late to learn.
And Possible Endings …
What am I going to do with the degree when I am finished? I told myself I would go through the first year and determine that part later. I will probably figure it out sometime next year. I plan to keep practicing law, but I would also like to do something meaningful for the kingdom of God.
This year, I learned that I enjoy writing about religious topics. I particularly enjoy doing the reading and thinking that writing for others about a weighty topic demands. I like the challenge of clearly and concisely addressing complicated, controversial, or sprawling issues.
I also enjoy talking about religious topics, whether one-on-one or with a group.
Not That Kind of Talking and Writing
I am not referring to the in-your-face-evangelizing type of talking.
Plenty of people want to sort out their thoughts on religious issues, but they find the arrogance, inauthenticity, and hypocrisy of many who talk about such issues so off-putting that they never attempt to sort them out.
And the vast majority of written material about religion—on the internet and in print—is written to indoctrinate, rather than to help us work through our own thinking. The material advocates one viewpoint while not dealing honestly with others and while expressing half-truths (and sometimes not even half).
Someone who wants to sort out what they think about a religious issue is often faced with a mountain of inauthenticity. The mountain can be so high that one just gives up.
And some folks who want to sort out such issues are a bit embarrassed about not knowing the answers already.
But I’ve learned over the past year that those who recognize that they don’t know the answer are far, far ahead of the vast majority of those who think they already do.
Hopefully This Kind
My thinking is that someone who is available and willing to discuss and write about all sides of a religious issue and who does so in an authentic, intellectually honest, and non-judgmental way would be of much more value to others than someone who presents only one side, ignores other views, and is quick to condemn.
So, I am aiming to be the former. We’ll see.
Thanks for the Prayers …
I appreciate those of you who have prayed for me and my family as I make my way through Divinity School. It has not been easy on any of us, and your prayers are needed!
I also appreciate those of you who regularly read my blog posts. I hope they are informative and provoke thought. I appreciate your questions and comments.
A Break in School and Blogging, ‘Til June
I enjoyed my first year, but it is time for a break. I am looking forward to the summer.
I am going to take a rest from blogging over the next few weeks, and I look forward to picking it back up in June, maybe at a slower pace for the rest of the summer.
Hope to see you soon!
(The picture is of some of my classmates and me celebrating the end of exams.)