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Why Are You In Seminary?

More than once since I began seminary, I have had people asking what I'm planning to "do" with my education. By far the most popular question is: "Are you going to be a pastor?" 

Some people are very encouraging. One of my former Sunday school students, when I shared with her my current course load said, "You rock, Mrs. Shay!" When other people hear that I'm taking Greek, there is a look of suspicion. Am I learning to "break the code" so that I can usurp the authority structures in my life? To be fair, when we have really good English translations, why would I need to take Greek? It is an honest question. I generally don't explain that question much. I just let them think I'm nerdy, weird, or quaint; whatever suits them.

A few weeks ago, my husband met a Trinidadian farm worker who is here for the harvest season. He invited him to church, and afterwards, we had him back for a meal. He saw my bookcases and asked why I had so many. When I told him I was in seminary, and that it involved studying the Bible, he said in a very strong Caribbean accent: "You gunna be a preacher lady?" When I said no, he could not fathom that. In his country, there are quite a few female pastors, apparently.

This weekend, while out shopping for a dining room table, my husband and I went to a Mennonite furniture store not far from where I attend school. As we were chatting about the possibility of coming back for one of the tables, I mentioned that I am in town twice a week. The sales lady asked why, and I told her where I was going to school. "That's great! Are you going to be a pastor?" I said I wasn't, and her follow-up question was the second most common question I'm asked about seminary: "Why aren't you going to be a pastor?" And that is an answer that takes more time to explain.

This woman's opinion was that women add something to the Church. I agree with her. Women do have something to offer the Church. Yes, it is in discipling women, helping them raise their children, and be good wives. But it is about so much more than that. In the examples we older women set, are we setting the example of thinking deeply about theology? Surely, with so many women in the Church, and with so many different personalities, it is about more than saying: go ask your husband or your pastor. The Church needs women because the Church has women in it! 

And really, for all those men who are learning to be pastors, does it not benefit them to understand what it means to minister to women? Who would be more able to help pastors understand just how that is done? 

It's a no-brainer. 


My Jesus, I Love Thee

I looked for a rendition where all four verses are sung, but I did not find one. I have no idea why people would skip the third verse.

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know thou art mine,
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious redeemer, my Saviour art Thou;
If I ever loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me
And purchaed my pardon on Calvary's tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

I'll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath.
And say, whe the death dew lies cold on my brow,
"If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now."

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I'll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright.
I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
"If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now."


Doest complementarianism foster idolatry?

How's that for an argumentative question? If more people read this blog, I could be in trouble.

This is a question that has long simmered in my mind. Don't get me wrong; I love my husband. He is a good leader, and I trust him. He is my best friend. Contrary to those who say a husband can't be a woman's best friend, he is. There is no one I'd rather spend time with. We can talk, and we can be quiet. He is supportive, even if he isn't always as interested in what I'm learning. He has terrible taste in music, but I'd rather listen to Perry Como in that car with him than anyone else.

But he's not perfect. And he is not immortal. 

Recently, he had a travel fiasco whereby he had to make a connecting flight in Calgary when they were in the throes of a fall snow storm. Ultimately, he flew out of Vancouver instead of Victoria and was en route home for about 17 hours. Those kind of things make me anxious. I begin to envision the worst: what if he is hurt or the plane crashes? At one point, he was on a ferry from Victoria to Vancouver; what if it had an accident? I'm only too aware that I depend a great deal on my husband. There are so many things that he handles well. When the tail pipe on my car became disengaged from the muffler this week, he took care of it. When I have technical issues, he is the second set of eyes that helps me look carefully at things. What would I do without him?

And of course, the answer is that I would do without him. My neighbour two doors down lost her husband of over 50 years about six weeks ago. When we were both at the mailbox recently, her comment was, "It's a different life." 

My concern arises when every spritual and theological issue is served up to women couched in terms of the leadership of husbands. Recently, at my school, we had a day of special preaching lectures. There was a separate event for "ministry wives," obviously assuming that they wouldn't want to sit in on the preaching lectures. I understand that some wouldn't want to, but are there some who would rather listen in on the lectures? And if they do, do they feel pressured to go and sit with the other women to be encouraged in their marriages?

Of course we need encouragement in our marriages, but I sometimes wonder if all this talk about it builds up inflated expectations or leads to putting our husbands in the the place of God. Honestly, the way some women talk about their husbands, you would think God had not granted them any initiative, indepenence, or skill. That simply isn't true. I am content to let my husband be the one to climb up on the ladder to clean out the gunk from the eaves; but that doesn't mean I couldn't do it if I had to. I'm also pretty sure that if I was shown properly, I could change the oil on the car. I don't leave those things to him because I can't do them; I do it because I don't like doing them and he doesn't mind. Sometimes, expectation that we must all be meek, helpless women is a hard burden to shoulder. I haven't worked through all of these things, but it is a question rolling around in my mind.

If I was widowed, my life would be very different, indeed. But I would hate to think that I would be lost and flailing if that happened. If all women are ever instructed about is marriage, what does that do for a woman who is widowed, or finds herself abandoned by her husband, or finds herself never marrying? It's worth thinking about.


Turkey, wedding dresses, and power studying

This week was very intense. It started last weekend, actually, and was made worse by my own laziness. To be fair, the cold I had a couple of weeks ago did not leave quickly. I was very lethargic for quite a while after that razor-blades-in-the-back-of-the-throat feeling dissipated. In short, by this time last week, I was behind in my reading.

Last weekend was Thanksgiving here, and its business was increased by the project (albeit a joyful one!) I had on Saturday: buying a wedding dress for my daughter. With that accomplished, I was able to focus on  Thanksgsiving celebrations. All the kids were home, and it was wonderful.

However, by the end of the holiday Monday, I was only about 80 of 266 pages into the book Hard Sayings of Jesus. I needed to have it done by Tuesday so that I could meet with my fellow group members for an assigned project. When I arrived for the meeting, I still had about eight or nine pages to go, but in the end, it was okay. The book wasn't overly difficult, but it wasn't exactly a breeze. It required thought. After the meeting, I had a class from 6:30-9:15 pm. I arrived home by 10:30 that night, feeling a little fried. 

That left me with Wednesday to finish a Greek Exegesis assignment and study for a quiz. Some of the material, I had only given a cursory glance. I also had another group project meeting (another class, another group project) on Wednesday afternoon. As I drove the hour there and back, I was wishing there was a way to quiz myself on Greek vocabulary while driving. 

I basically spent all of Wednesday night working on Greek. I try to get to bed early on Wednesday nights because I leave here at 6:45 am on Thursdays, but it was 11:30 when I stopped. I was very thankful to hand in the assignment and do the quiz. Even though I wanted to stay for chapel, I went home and crashed.

The difference between an introvert and an extrovert is how they are energeized. My husband finds discussion and interaction with people very tiring. He gets energized by being alone. I am not on either extreme. I am an "on the fence-trovert." While I loved the discussion in the meetings I had with my group project members, and I thoroughly enjoyed my class on Tuesday, I was so exhausted by Thursday evening that I didn't mind one bit that my husband had decided to go watch a concert my sons' band was doing. I blissfully watched the Montreal Canadiens' home opener (clarification: I watched them lose their home opener) on my own.

I cannot imagine how seminary students with young children manage. One of my classmates, another woman, has four children; and they are at that stage where she's driving them around everywhere. One of the other students, a man, has five children. Perhaps the difference is that I'm not used to having a lot of activity anymore, and when I do, I find it tiring.

My game plan now is to avoid the situation where I'm doing five or six hours of Greek homework in one sitting rather than spreading it out over the week. 


Does Anne Shirley give us unreasonable expectations?

In Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley declares her intention to be Diana Barry's "bosom friend" forever. And in the context of all of the books, that happens. Even in the volume Anne's House of Dreams, we see Diana and Anne as adults chatting as Anne prepares to marry. Diana has called her newborn "small Anne Cordelia." Later, Anne calls her twin daughters "Anne and Diana." There is no record of a squabble or misunderstanding between the two women.

Even in all of Anne's other friendships with women, she is the perfect friend. Everyone loves Anne. In the book Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne has to win over a crusty colleague, and of course, she does. She is able to win the love of everyone she meets.

Growing up, I read those volumes over and over again. I expected that I, too, would find a "bosom friend." And of course, that has really never happened. Montgomery, herself, was well-liked. She was charming and winsome, and people liked to talk to her. But she did not have perfect relationships. The woman she was closest to, her cousin Frederica, died in 1919 of the flu. And her journals are filled with words expressing her feeling if isolation and loneliness.

Christian women are encouraged to have those "bosom friend" situations; to have close sisters in Christ. That has really not been the case for me. One of the most toxic friendships I have ever had was with a fellow Christian woman. There are women I've gone to church with for more than twent years who are good friends to everyone, but I share no close connection with any one woman in particular. I came into the church when many friendships had long been established, and I was a bit of an outsider.

To be completely honest, the only woman I feel like I can be completely myself with and trust with personal details is my daughter. And in recent months, I have come to see that I have not given my trust to many people. Instances when I have opened up a little only to have the individual freeze me out later have made me even more reluctant. One friend has become cool toward me since I began seminary. Asking what I have done wrong is met with a painfully polite, "Nothing at all." And yet the coolness remains. My mind thinks "You are not a safe person." And I let it go.

The reality is that friendships are not perfect. We are not perfect with one another. It takes forgiveness and a willingness to be offended. We have to overlook things. And we have to put an effort into the friendship. If I sense that I'm doing all of the initiating, I do ask myself if the friendships is actually what I believed it to be. And it's okay if we're not best friends with everyone. It's not necessary to have a "best friend." If we do, we should consider it a gift. God has his reasons for establishing us in his circumstances. Sometimes, we need reminders that our sufficiency is in Christ, not in human relationships. Even the best relationships are no substitute for what we have in Christ. He does not let us down, cool toward us, or betray us.

While the existence of perfect friendships is engaging in a book, the truth is that relationships are not easy, and if we are not Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, we're not the only ones.