My Faith Journey
As many of you may know, I am making plans on attending Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. I am in the final stages of being accepted. The following is the essay I wrote to describe myself and what I want to study. I am sharing it, so you, dear reader will understand me and what to expect from this blog. I share it also to challenge you to write about yourself and your own faith journey.
Not born Christian, my spiritual journey has been to Christ from outside the church. I was born into an LDS family. On my Mother’s side, we can trace our heritage all the way back to the pioneers. I studied this church and its teachings and found I could not endorse them if I were to be honest. I was angry, part of me is still angry. I am working through the anger. After discovering that the only way I had ever known is not true, I rejected God. I was done with God, but He was not done with me.
I started studying Buddhism and reading New Age authors. I liked what I found, yet they didn’t quite satisfy. They hinted and teased at something more. This sense of ‘more’ dug into my life and would not let me go. Once you have tasted this sense of ‘more’ you will seek it until you find it or it finds you. The seeking is the proof that God has found and embraced you. I sensed some presence around me, some force. I wouldn’t identify this force with the god of religion. At least, not the kind of religion I had experienced at that point in my journey. I equated it more with the force talked about in Star Wars. I didn’t think it a personal God who loved me personally and wanted a relationship with me. I see this presence to be love. Love is the heart of the universe. At the center of the universe is a personal presence (God) that loves everyone and wants a personal relationship with all.
I started to be led back or maybe, I should say led to Jesus for the first time. I began reading Christian writers. Yet, Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh through his book Living Buddha Living Christ got me to read the bible. Yes. That’s right. A Buddhist monk led me to the bible. Or, should I say God working through a Buddhist Monk led me to the bible. Either way, I started on the Gospel of John and when I got to 10:10—I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full—that was when I discovered a new Jesus, new to me, anyway. I put my bible down. I prayed. I don’t remember what words I used. I do remember thinking that the hope, promise, wonder, and joy in that single verse was what life should be about that we should live fully, radically, and wastefully. That line also speaks about how life is a gift, nothing we could ever earn or create for ourselves, but is lavished on us because God loved us first.
I became a Christian. I have been trying to understand that choice ever since.
The other event that is shaping my journey and decision to become pastor is attending First Presbyterian Church. This church has met the challenge of shepherding me giving me a place to explore Christianity, life, and my fears and doubts. They have given me room to grow and to voice my struggles. I belong to a bi-weekly men’s Bible study group. This group has helped me to grow as a Christian. I have taught two Sunday school classes—one on prayer another a bible study of Song of Songs—both have helped with my personal spiritual formation. I have been able to explore, grow, and experience what it means to follow Jesus.
My Christian faith informs many of the decisions I make including my choice to move to Iowa to attend seminary. Both scary and exciting, I trust that as I step forward God will send the right people to guide and walk beside me on this journey. I see faith not as a one-time choice or a once-a-week retreat, but as the way one responds to and experiences all of life. Faith is not an intellectual assertion, but an experiential trusting. The 3/3 program will allow me to grow into the kind of person and leader I know I have the potential to be, the kind of leader that can guide others to Christ and stand with them in all seasons of life. My hope is that my time in Iowa will be one of greater and deeper exploration, growth, and experience of the Christian life. I know there is much to learn, but I also believe I can and will bring much to my time at Dubuque.
What are you eager to study in seminary, and why?
The easy answer would be everything. I want to explore the Bible, Church history, theology, and ministry. I want to deepen my understanding of the Bible, church, and theology. I want to discover and embrace a deeper Christian faith and equip myself with the tools to share it with others. I have been reading a lot of theology recently. Sometimes, I get as giddy as ten-year-old boy on Christmas morning looking at all the presents gathered around the brightly lit Christmas tree. I have and am learning so many wonderful things about faith, life, and God. Reading has always been my favorite thing. I am beginning to see that it can be a spiritual discipline too. I am currently reading Robert Farrar Capon’s book on the parables of Jesus, as Capon fleshes out each parable I get more excited. I am starting to see there is much more in the parables of Jesus than meets the eye.
I want to learn Hebrew and Greek. I believe studying the Bible in its original language will better help me understand and share my understanding of God’s word with others. This will open up scripture in fresh, exciting, and relevant ways for others and myself.
I want to learn more about the history of Christianity how the church started, evolved and grew through the years and how best to be the church in our current context. I want to study the Protestant reformation, the reformed tradition, and different aspects of the church and how best to reach those outside the church as I once was. I want to learn the theology and ministry methods and models that would best help me to be the best pastor that I can be, so I can be an asset to the local church. Seminary for me is mostly about becoming a pastor.
Yet, I hope that going to seminary will also help me in my personal spiritual journey. I want to study the bible deeper, explore theology more, learn more about Christianity, the church, and being a disciple of Jesus, and how to guide and lead at the local level. I want to discover creative ways of being the church and a disciple of Christ. I want to learn more about the Presbyterian tradition.
For me seminary is the next logical step on my spiritual journey. I know Iowa and seminary will be different from my current surroundings and I want to explore and experience all that Dubuque and seminary has to offer. I want to meet new people and discover new things. I hope this whole process will be one of greater discovery and learning. My hope is not to be the next Rob Bell or John Piper, but to be the most authentic and transparent leader, teacher, and friend that I can be. I believe that The University of Dubuque and Seminary will help me with this and that my time there will bless others and me now and throughout my life.
Grace and Peace