Friday, May 14, 2010
Well, the first year of seminary has come and gone … I've been trying to put together in my mind just how to express what all I've experienced since September but words fail me. (That happens now and again.) I know I've changed, but I can't exactly explain just how. My view of scripture has deepened, I have a better understanding of church history and how that history affects how the church is viewed and operates today, I've learned lots of new theological words, I've grown spiritually, I've developed some wonderful relationships, and I'm more confident than ever that I'm doing what God has called me to do. What I've learned most of all, though, is just how important words are.
The Bible is the Word of God, breathed and inspired to show us how God used some broken, rag-tag humans, who he created to be in relationship with him and blessed with the awesome gift of free-will, to further his purpose within his creation. God's own words breathed us and all of creation into being. Jesus is God's Word incarnate, come into this world to redeem all humans and restore a right relationship with God.
As humans, words are how we convey meaning to each other through our languages. We speak and write our narratives to preserve what we experience in God's creation. We communicate with each other and with God through our words. Our words can build relationships and bring peace and, without our knowing it or without our intending it to be so, they can damage relationships and bring heart ache. Words can heal and words can harm.
As a student, my professors use words to convey their thoughts and ideas to me and they use my words, spoken and written, to judge how well I've learned what they attempted to teach. My fellow students and I use words to explore what we are learning, by reading other's written words, in conversations with spoken words, and in our papers with our own written words. Beyond the classroom, we express our thoughts and emotions to each other through words. We determine who is being authentic with us, and who is not, by the words they use. We decide who we can trust, and who we cannot, by weighing one person's words against another's. Sometimes we are not aware of the totality of the message of our own words until we see, through another person's actions, their interpretation of our words. Sometimes we can correct the meaning, and sometimes not.
I have always loved the study of words – just ask my classmates how excited I get over looking up the history of a word in the OED (this was after all what my senior paper was on for my undergrad). As a writer, I know the importance of choosing the right words to convey accurate meaning. As a person in relationship with others, I try to weigh my spoken word as carefully as possible, trying to think of the many possible interpretations (and not always getting this part right). In prayer and conversation with God, I know that no matter what words I choose, he knows my heart even better than I and sometimes, just sitting in silence acknowledging his awesome presence is the best thing to do. And, sometimes, when I honestly and authentically do this, I hear his words as clear as day.
One of the most important experiences I have had over this first year as school is learning to put my story into words for people who have no knowledge of my background. The good parts are easy to talk about, easy to find words for. The personal tragedies, on the other hand, have been a challenge. I have had to learn to frame in words the experiences of the previous year because I was with people who didn't know what had happened and I found this process, although excruciatingly difficult, incredibly healing. To put emotions into words is to take control of my emotions so that the emotions are no longer in control of me. It's been amazing, a trite word, I know, but the best I can come up with for now.
I started this blog to convey to those who are interested in my journey through seminary what I'm experiencing and I have to admit I haven't done a very good job of it. So, I'm going to try a different approach to these words. This summer, I'm going to be doing an internship (officially called Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE) at a VA hospital. Basically, I'll be working as a chaplain-in-training. From what others have told me (yep, through their own words describing their experiences) it is an emotionally heavy experience. I'm going to attempt to journal my way through it with entries most every day. (And, yes, I carefully chose the words "most every day" to give myself an out if I miss a day here and there – the power of words is great, isn't it!)
And, now, for words that I don't think I can ever say enough because they just don't seem to convey the depth of my true feelings – thank you all for your interest in my simple story. Knowing that you care and that you support me in your words of encouragement and words of prayer mean more than I will ever be able to fully express.
God's peace be with you, my friends.