Musings & Younger Perspectives:
Confessions of a first-year seminarian
By Bailey Brawner
During my first “Introduction to Christian Traditions” class, our professor began asking us questions, as a way of getting to know our theological understandings and us. He shared that there were no right or wrong answers. He began by asking what denominational affiliation we belonged to.
“Methodist.” I could handle that one.
A few easy questions later, he said, “Do you think that Jesus was younger than Mary? If you do, raise your hand.”
My inner dialogue thought back to every Christmas Eve service and human development class of my life.
Well, seeing as Mary birthed Jesus, that would mean that Mary would be older than the newborn child she just gave life to. I raised my hand, as did the majority of my class. “Do you think Jesus was the same age as Mary?” he asked us next. Well, I just said yes to the last one, so I kept my hand down. “Do you think Jesus, God incarnate, is older than Mary? Remember, you can answer as many times as you want.” In a mic-drop type moment, the class got quiet, then slowly, nervous laughter began and hands rose hesitantly. Our professor had just dropped a theological bomb on me. This experience signifies my experience in seminary thus far.
For the past couple years now, I’ve been preparing. I have been finishing my undergraduate studies, collecting letters & references, completing internships, filling out paperwork, sharing my story with committees, and more. All of this has led me to one place – Boston University School of Theology.
With all that preparation under my belt, I had thought I would be, as the term suggests – ‘prepared’ for seminary. Yeah, I had heard those post-seminary people tell me all about how it “changes you” and “makes you question everything you’ve ever thought you knew” and how I’d never be prepared.
The thing is, though, that I consider myself to be an organized, introspective individual. I make checklists and can sort out problems in my head. Certainly, I could apply myself in these ways for three years, and then continue on to be a pastor. Easy, I thought.
Boy, was I wrong.
Though I’ve only been here for a very short time, I can already begin to see how truly wrong I was. I was not prepared to walk double-digit miles in a day to get around my new town. I was not prepared for 300+ pages of ‘introductory’ reading within the first week. I was not prepared to explain to people what my theology is.
However, I am prepared to grow and to discover and to be me. This is where I see so much beauty in this new experience, even in the midst of so much uncertainty. I see beauty in exhausted first-years, coming home and resting after a long day in the classroom, only to speak to one another about theology and social justice issues. I see beauty in learning the tough and emotional stories of my new friends, my new colleagues in ministry. I see beauty in the safe space I have found at the School of Theology, one that allows for people of all ways of life, and even those who are uninformed of what they are learning, like myself. Most importantly, I see beauty in what I am seeking and what I will be seeking within my own understanding for these next three years at BUSTH.
So here I sit, unaware of what I will be faced to grapple with today, tomorrow, or next month. In the past, this would have scared me. In the past, I would have done anything and everything I could to bring clarity to my life. However, God has shown me, through both my experiences at seminary and others, that life doesn’t work that way.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” So for now, my job is not to understand everything that is put before me, or to be prepared to run the church tomorrow. My job, in this time, is to love, to be loved, and to find all the beauty I can in this season of my life.