The first reflection paper I did for Spirituality and Mission was based on an article by Eugene Peterson entitled "Seminary as a Place of Spiritual Formation." Quite interesting. Our TA who grades the papers said that most everyone in the class (70 or so) were pretty much in the same place and probably didn't know it. That we were all struggling with our spirituality and feeling spiritually less-than-fulfilled while in seminary....
Here's my paper:
Homoousian vs. homoiousian. Of same substance vs. of similar substance. Words introduced to me last fall in Early Church History at the start of my seminary studies. I was excited, ready to study and work toward a career change. My first two courses online went well. I was challenged and encouraged as I did my coursework and immediately applied it to ministry. My spiritual environment and church community were still intact and in daily and weekly use. This is good, I thought.
Then I moved to Pasadena in January to start my on-campus requirement. To say that the move threw my spirituality into a tizzy is a tad overdramatic but there are days that it feels exactly that way. I followed God’s lead as he moved me across the country and worked out every detail in perfect timing (as is his way). He just gave me the simple task of tying up loose ends. Still, I found myself in Pasadena in a tiny apartment (compared to a whole house in Nashville) where I didn’t have but one old friend close at hand, I was in need of a new church community and I was forced to create a new work schedule that lived in harmony with classes and homework.
Balancing a job in the “God-forsaken” music industry with two time-consuming courses left my soul asking, “What have you done to me? Do you remember me at all?” Perhaps halfway through winter quarter, I stopped. I sat down to consider all the parts of my new and old world that needed attention. I looked at my schedule to set boundaries so my student person and career person did not overtake my spiritual person. I found that my spiritual person, my soul, required more than Christian academics and Christian community for its nourishment. Both of those fed my soul, kept it alive in a sense, but they weren’t nourishing it – like I was eating ice cream and calling it my dairy allowance for the day.
Since my assessment, I am more aware of what I’m feeding my soul. It’s still not consistently great but I’m working on it. I’m aware of the need and I’m continually asking the Spirit to guide me and aid me. My spirit and my soul continually feel more hopeful about being in seminary as I become more settled in Southern California, more connected to my church community, meeting new people on campus and in a good routine with my jobs; they are catching up to where my brain already is.
The Eugene Peterson article made me sigh with relief. I’m not the only one that feels this way! This is not uncommon. There is community to be found in this seminary struggle. I also like what he says about the difficulty everyone has talking to God no matter the condition of life. Seminary is only one condition, one place and it gives me a certain setting for spiritual formation right now. There are other conditions as well. Not only will I experience different conditions at some point but I will also be in a position to help others look at their conditions and how their spiritual formations develop there.
I also discovered a way to identify this “intellectual cancer” to be aware of its existence so as to recognize and challenge its existence in me. I am a writer and editor by trade so I love words. They’re pretty much my life and Peterson’s description of the words Logos, logoi and logismos will be used routinely in my seminary studies now. I can and should take the time to look at words and subjects, and place them within the correct categories above for sanity in my brain and for peace in my soul. What is the Word of God, what words describe that Word and what words get in the way? Peterson’s reminder about bringing every thought captive will hopefully keep my brain from being overwhelmed and my soul from running amuck.
[I have the Peterson article in a PDF if interested.]