Beauty in the breakdown

The drives are long. Tiring. Seven weekends in a row of back and forth. Back and forth. Back. And. Forth. Two months of whirlwind travel. Tears in the car. Of frustration. Of homesickness. Occasionally of fear. Fear of traveling in inclimate weather. Fear that this schedule will rip me in two.

On Thursday I nearly lost it completely because after an hour and 15 minutes of driving, we realized we forgot to grab our dress clothes from the closet door. The dress clothes we needed for chapel dedication and a class discussion with clergy. The dress clothes our seminary president requested we wear. And so we turned around and drove back home. Twoandahalfhours to land back where we started — home. And I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to spend another 4.5 hours on the road. I didn’t want to get in late and have to wake up early and feel as if I left my mind somewhere on I-70. So I cried while Allyn hugged me and pretended that his wife hadn’t gone completely crazy. And then we got back in the car and drove across the state. Again.

And that is what it is like to be in seminary. Glamorous, no? Sometimes I wonder if it is worth it. If I can handle it. If it will be more than I can take.

Luckily there are moments of sanity, moments of clarity. This weekend they came as they often do, through the help of a friend. My friend Kate spoke at the new chapel dedication about her own seminary journey. She is graduating with her M.Div. next month and shared about the encouragement she has received at Central — about how she has found her voice. And I think back to two years ago when I was first approached to start this journey full time. I think of the questions I had — of the questions that had been buried deep inside me for nearly as far back as I can remember. Questions of calling and giftedness.

Central helped Kate develop her gifts and to discover things about herself that she didn’t know. And Central is doing the same thing for me now. Much is in the classroom, but much also comes from the encouragement of the community. From fellow students. From professors. From directors of seminary relations. From all those who are walking alongside me, lifting me when I’m at a breaking point.

I continue on because I am reminded of what God is doing in the world — walking alongside the hurting, offering shalom (to quote my friend Leroy). And I want to be part of that. No, it doesn’t requite a degree. But why miss out on the community that is forming me, that is helping me see myself — and perhaps see God — more clearly… or at least more authentically (since both God and me seem to be too far beyond my brain capacity to be clear)?

So I press on. Knowing that breaks are coming. Both breaks in schedule and breaks mentally. I know I will break down many more times along this journey. But I’m also confident that there is a community waiting to hold me and remind me of who I am.

(photo credit)
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Filed under reflection, seminary

7 responses to “Beauty in the breakdown

  1. Allyne Dault

    I love you, Jennifer, and I have prayed for your safe travels to and from seminary. I, too, cried, when I read your blog and realized that what appears on the outside to be a glamorous, fun-filled time of travel back and forth with your husband to learn about something “fun and interesting” is a schedule filled with stress and toil. Please know that your in-laws are praying for you and are so proud of what you are doing and what you will accomplish in your lifetime. If I was there, I’d hug you and cry with you and try to come up with something clever to say to make you laugh. But in the end, please know that our prayer is that God will continue to use you to bring others closer to a real understanding of His grace and love through your love and graceful writings. I am so proud to call you “daughter” and thank God daily that He allowed you and Allyn to meet. One of the side benefits of your love for each other has been an opportunity for Charles and me to “fall in love” with you, too. You are a remarkable woman and we are proud that we are family!

  2. Thanks, Jennifer, for baring your soul and struggles a bit as you wrestle with pursuing what God has called you to do. I look back on some awfully long hours in seminary many years ago (thankfully without the long commute that you are making), and wonder how our family got through it all. As soon as I muse about that a bit, the answer comes quickly–it was all by God’s grace.

    I’m confident that He will see you through this stage of the journey and use the experience to continue to mold and shape you into the minister that He wants you to be to touch the lives of others.

    Blessings on the journey, my friend.

  3. I am so proud of you for hanging in there. Ugh, I remember the really rough weeks and I didn’t have a commute. I can’t imagine! I’m glad you and your husband are doing this journey together (literally, the driving too!)… what a great gift in ministry! So glad I get to follow along and cheer you on from twitter & the blogosphere!

    • Thanks, LeAnn! Allyn asked me recently if we had it to do over again would I choose to be in the same cohort or prefer us to be different years. I responded that while I’m jealous of the second cohort’s women (I’m alone!), there is no way I would want to commute alone. I appreciate your cheering. I’m enjoying following your journey, as well!

  4. Saying some prayers for you!

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