It may sound ironic that seminary, a place where you are learning about God each and every day, could be a place that wreaks havoc on your relationship with God, but it’s true. Between keeping up with your assignments, establishing new relationships (and maintaining old ones), and working 20 hours a week it can be very tempting, and easy, to neglect your relationship with God. To make matters worse it can be easy to rationalize away your daily quiet time by saying, “I’m studying and learning about God all day, I don’t need to have a quiet time.”
I encountered all of these pressures and temptations during my first semester at seminary, which combined to make keeping my relationship with God the most difficult part of my first semester at seminary. Finding the balance between academics, relationships, and work came easily enough, but finding the discipline to spend time with God daily in prayer and meditation proved to be far more difficult. When I woke up in the morning my mind would race with all the things that I had to get done that day, and would plan and schedule all of them so that they could be completed. What didn’t get scheduled though was quiet time with God. It rarely came to mind, and when it did it was scheduled for “later,” a “later” which never came. It didn’t take long for me to feel distant from God as a result of my neglecting to spend time with Him.
Eventually I came to realize that my relationship with God should be the thing that I prioritize above everything else. I came to seminary in order to learn about God and become more effective and better equipped to serve Him, but if my heart was not His then all this time and money spent on seminary would be a waste of time; if I didn’t have a walk with God myself there was no possible way that I could help others on their walk. If I didn’t have a good relationship with God then all my ministry efforts would be for naught.
The things you learn in seminary will be very nourishing for your faith, if they find a heart made fertile by a close relationship with God. In order to maintain this relationship you must carve out a time each day to spend with God and discipline yourself to keep that time each day. I spend my time with God in the morning before I walk out my door. Doing it at this time helps me focus my mind for the rest of the day on the things of God. I also find that my mind is less cluttered by other thoughts first thing in the morning and I am easily able to focus during my quiet time.
Your relationship with God is of paramount importance to your seminary career. While you can indeed excel in the academic side of seminary without it, you will fail miserably in the ministerial side without it. The goal of seminary is not get an “A” on every paper, but to become a more effective minister for God. So prioritize your relationship with Him and spend time with Him every day. The people you will minister to in the future will not care what your GPA was in seminary, but they will care whether or not you can minister to them and show them the love of Christ.