A year and a half ago, my husband and I just up and moved from Birmingham, Alabama, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From the time we even began considering seminary to the time we actually moved, only five weeks had passed. From the outside, it looked like a cut and run, but our experience and intent was far from that.
We had long planned to attend seminary immediately after my husband completed his undergrad degree. We would have been married for only five months. When the time drew near, however, we reconsidered and decided that it would be better to have another year of marriage under our belts, a stronger church community in place, and more finances in the bank. So my husband transitioned from part- to full-time junior high ministry. We loved it! I worked full-time outside the church, and much of our spare time was spent with youth and their families.
When the next year rolled around, we actually took a more serious step towards the seminary track by visiting two seminaries in the spring. However, when that summer – and decision-making time – approached, we again concluded that we were supposed to remain in Birmingham, discipling students and doing ministry alongside them. God had blessed the ministry with amazing spiritual growth and depth of understanding in both students’ and staff members’ lives. (I, of course, credit this entirely to the influence of my husband, but I suppose I am biased.) We believed so firmly that we were to stay in Birmingham for years to come that we bought a house. We joke that attempting to paint the walls in the same room nearly rent our marriage in two, so we protected our covenant vows by hiring a painter to do the work for us, and continued to pour all that we had into the junior high ministry. We were also able to witness some of the now-high school students bearing tremendous fruit and demonstrating their fantastic grasp of theological principles in everyday life.
Ten months whooshed by. Our house remodeling – from floors to walls to furniture to new appliances to a finished basement and beyond – was behind us, both of our jobs were going well, and we loved where God had us. We even allowed my husband’s Westminster application to “go dead,” which was slightly painful, but we were confident we were supposed to be in Birmingham.
Enter late June 2013. My husband had taken some courses on the side at a church-housed seminary, which was fully paid for as long as my husband remained on staff. He grew rapidly discontent with the teaching available. One day, he called me at work, sounding the most frustrated he had ever been. Without knowing what I was setting in motion, I then called Westminster, without my husband’s knowledge. God knew that I was the one who needed to make the call, as I needed the most assurance that we really could move and be provided for. An admissions representative answered the phone. He was also a student who had made the move to seminary in less than a month and proceeded to speak pastorally with me for nearly an hour. When I told my husband about the phone call, he was surprised but intrigued. The seminary soon got in touch with my husband, which only piqued his interest even further. Without so much as a prod from us, the seminary offered to reopen my husband’s application, as long as he came for the fall semester, which was about six weeks away.
We set a time limit of two weeks to wrestle in prayer and think this through. My husband contacted his “Jedi counsel,” or five mentors who tremendously aided him in making difficult decisions. When we came together at the end of the two weeks, I was more confident than my husband that we ought to move. I even wrote him a two-page letter outlining the reasons I thought he ought to pursue seminary. We took the plunge and called the realtor who helped us buy our house – only ten months earlier! She listed our house two days later. My husband told his boss about his eminent departure. I gave three weeks’ notice at my job so that I’d have two weeks to research all things Philadelphia and pack up our entire house. Amazingly, we were able to organize a garage sale before we left, and my husband had an entire week of non-stop hangouts, get-togethers, coffees, and lunch dates to say goodbye to friends, students, and mentors. He was gone from 7 am to 11 pm that week, but I loved knowing that he was able to have that time, painful as it might be.
On August 18, 2013, my husband and I pulled out of our driveway in Birmingham, Alabama, for sale sign still in the front yard, and drove our two cars all fourteen hours to Philadelphia. It was a painful experience to leave our community and the South behind, but slightly exciting to see what God had planned for us.
Throughout the entire process, Luke 5:1-11 was especially encouraging to us. The fishermen who were to become Jesus’ disciples had just pulled in an amazing catch of fish, but when He called them to follow Him, “they left everything and followed him.” When we looked at the difficulties of moving not just across state lines but from the South to the North, and that in just a few weeks, the obstacles seemed insurmountable. Staying in Birmingham would have been easy and comfortable in one sense, but we would have had nothing if we had failed to listen to His call. When we distilled all considerations into the question, “Will we follow Christ?” it was apparent that we too must leave everything in order to follow Him to seminary.
Kathleen Pinson a Southerner “exiled” in the North for two more years as my husband and I attend Westminster Theological Seminary to earn our MDivs and MACs (Masters in Counseling). I make two gallons of sweet tea every week, have nannied and worked at a coffee shop since we moved to Philadelphia two years ago, and enjoy reading fiction with a good mug of dark roast.