I’m sitting in the lounge of the library at Wesley Theological Seminary as I write this. When I began seminary, in August, 2008, this wasn’t a lounge. There were some display cases here, the circulation librarian’s desk, and the copy machines. The library got a big make-over since I’ve started. Many things have changed since I’ve started.
In just a couple of hours, we will celebrate the graduate eucharist, and then the graduate dinner. On Monday, I will be officially graduated at Washington National Cathedral. I’ve sung at every graduation since I’ve been here. Now it’s my turn to walk. My regalia is waiting for me at home. This has been a long journey. A LONG journey.
And I am HAPPY. I am, at this moment, so very happy. I’m relieved. I’m done. I’m done with school. Well, ok, I’m done with this particular degree. I’m done with my requirements for ordination. My internship continues, but my evaluations are done. I just have to keep going to my job and doing it. I can handle that. Why wouldn’t I? I’ve done so much already.
When I began seminary, I was 46 years old. I was already a bereaved parent, but I was in a stable marriage. Twenty-one-year-old was 15 and in high school. I was certain — CERTAIN — that I was going to be a chaplain. I was certain of that a month ago. God is SO funny. But I’ve blogged about that already. (See Discernment). I wasn’t ready to leave my choir or give up participation in the theater ministry in my home congregation. Heck, I was still working at a full-time day job when I began. Oh, but things changed. Rapidly.
After one semester at seminary, I got laid off from my day job. Praise all that is Holy. I was unhappy for the last year, but even so, I was afraid to not be bringing in a paycheck,and ended up taking the worst job I’d ever had (even though it was also the highest-paying job I’d ever had) for the first semester of my second year at seminary. That didn’t work out. We broke up – that company and I. And then, it happened. Don and I realized that we could live on his salary. I began going to seminary full-time.
Oh, and other things were happening, too. I was just so sure of so many things when I started. I knew that my own faith wouldn’t be rattled because I had such an open mind. HAHAHAHA!! Did I mention God’s sense of humor? Sure, I have an open mind. And it was opened to SO much more. It hadn’t occurred to me that one thing that could happen would be that my faith could become, in some ways, more orthodox. Who knew? I mean, I’m still very liberal in my religion, but I’ve become so much more biblically grounded. I’ve learned to appreciate and love the cross as a powerful symbol. My love for communion has only gotten stronger and deeper. I could go on.
Twenty-one-year-old left for college. She wasn’t the only one, but she was the last one. And Don got sick. Very sick. And there was Twenty-one-year-old off at college, and Twenty-five-year-old overseas when he took his final downturn. It was a rough year.
When Don finally died, after a month of steady decline, I had this immense seminary community surrounding me, in addition to a community of minister colleagues, and my home congregation. I never had a chance to sink below the waterline; they wouldn’t let me.
Don was my biggest supporter all the way through seminary. When I first started, he started to feel like I might be leaving him a bit in the dust. Suddenly I was talking about the Bible in these much deeper terms, and he didn’t feel like he was keeping up. “Take a class!” I said to him. Because Wesley does this cool thing where they allow spouses to audit one class per semester. They understand how important the support of a spouse is, and they don’t want spouses to feel left behind. So he did. He took a year of Hebrew Bible with one of my favorite professors. And then he felt like he knew what he was talking about. It was great.
And then he wasn’t there for the whole last year.
So on Monday when I walk, he won’t be there in body. But the whole body of the seminary will be. The spirits of all who came before will be.
Today I have been given the honor of reading a part in the Psalm 23 litany in the graduate eucharist. In fact, I will be reading the actual psalm part. I am honored. And happy. Just…happy.
I’m enjoying the moment. And that’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.