I came into seminary not 100% sure that this was where I was supposed to be. Although I had a desire to work in ministry, to learn theology and serve the church, received affirmation from friends, family, and teachers, I could never shake these feelings of doubt—am I really called to be here? Am I really called to pastoral ministry? This uncertainty led me to approach my studies in a dangerous manner—I studied hard… And it left me feeling insecure and sapped of joy.
My constant concern about calling drove me to study hard because I held the belief that if I could do well in seminary then it would affirm that I was truly called to be in seminary and ministry. But as soon as I had begun to believe this formula of “Good grades = true calling” I began to lose sight of what seminary was all about.
Seminary was supposed to be a place where I could grow and gain more understanding about Scripture and God in order that I could give. Give in the form of helping a church member with questions. Give in the form of counseling or discipling a friend. Give in the form of preaching or teaching at my church. But because my identity became so deeply and intricately tied to my performance in school, seminary simply became a place to gain a sense of worth.
School became dreadful because I was constantly insecure about how I was doing. I lost sight of the purpose and as an effect lost joy and wonder in the things that I was learning. Great and beautiful truths about God were dwindled down to nothing more than just information that I needed to memorize and regurgitate on a test in order to receive a good grade. But by the grace of God this is not the end of the story.
During a campus club meeting one week, a guest pastor came and spoke about the topic of staying joyful in seminary; and his main point came down to the issue of how we approach our studies. As seminary students it is often easy to forget the greater purpose of seminary, that is, to prepare us to give. When we approach our studies in order to simply gain a sense of worth through our performance, amount of knowledge we have, etc. then we will quickly find ourselves robbed of joy because everything that we learn is not meant to serve ourselves but others.
When we are reminded that our worth is in Christ alone then we can approach our studies with the greater purpose of giving. Learning about the mysteries of God will no longer be used to build our egos with knowledge but can be used to increase wonder and worship in our fellow brothers and sisters. As we journey through our years in seminary, my prayer is that we may approach our studies with the mindset of serving Christ and His Church.
Daniel (Je) Park is a current M.Div student at Westminster Theological Seminary in PA. He blogs at dpark1006.tumblr.com.