Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Life of A Seminary Wife: Part 2 - Surprising Graces

Last week we looked at the struggles a seminary wife faces. This week I will write about some of the lessons that God has taught me during our time in seminary.

Prayer - While I was out running this morning, I was also praying. This is not abnormal for me, being that it is one of the few times I get to spend by myself. I love to utilize this time in order to meditate on the Lord and beseech him on behalf of myself, our family, and especially my husband. The Lord has been teaching me about prayer over the last year. Through various books on the topic, a study of the Lord's model prayer (Matthew 6), and my own personal study of the Scriptures, prayer has been a huge focus for me lately. 

Not only am I convinced of my need for prayer (personally), I am convinced that the single most important way that a wife can serve her husband is to pray for him. As I mentioned previously, seminary has unique challenges. I have often felt that I do not have the right answers to Chance's theological questions, nor the correct counsel in certain situations. However, I can always take his burdens to the Lord in prayer. 

I have been profoundly impacted to learn the necessity and privilege of prayer through the study of the Word of God. Although no where in the Scriptures are wives commanded to pray for their husbands, what other person do you know more intimately than your mate? Who does your husband share his burdens with? Who knows his propensities and struggles with sin more than you? A wife is called to a life of service alongside her husband. The best way a wife can serve her husband is by interceding for him.

Study - Over the last two years, God has impressed upon my heart a desire for the study of theology. When I became a Christian in college, I was very intimidated by ministry majors (i.e. Chance and others) who seemed to know everything there was to know about the Bible. I had very little head knowledge, and I was put off by the arrogance of some who were zealous in their studies. 

However, God has completely renovated my way of thinking about theology. Chance has impressed upon me, over and over again, the great blessing that learning is. He has challenged my thinking by asking pressing questions and picking my brain about my convictions. We have wrestled through a great many theological topics together. I have been his sounding board, as he works through issues in Scripture; and he has been mine.

I have grown in my confidence to be able to study theology on my own. He has been the greatest encourager in my walk with the Lord, convincing me to read [many] books that I insisted were way beyond my intellectual level. I have come to a deep appreciation of extra-biblical books and theological studies. God has used the avenue of my mind to deepen my walk with Him, and God has grow me in ways I did not think possible. 

Circumstances - Bible reading, prayer, journaling, and quiet times: these are all wonderful graces that God uses to grow Christians in their walk with him. However, I have learned that God also uses our circumstances to sanctify us. 

After Chance and I had been in Dallas for 7 months, the Lord took us out of a ministry that we were a part of. It happened rather quickly, and we did not at all expect it. Our plan was to begin trying to start a family once Chance was in his last year of seminary. But, after our ministry plans fell through, we began to reconsider our timeline for our family. 

About two months later, I got pregnant. I hadn't even been working at my job for a full year! I was nervous about what kind of sacrifices this would mean for us and whether this was the wisest decision. But, we knew that this was the direction the Lord was taking us, although it would mean some serious life change (especially for me). It was not at all what I had expected would happen when we moved here the previous year.

In a matter of months, I went from full-time executive assistant (without children) to stay-at-home mom. It was a drastic change, and I struggled for a few months to get the hang of being at home all day with a newborn. God used those first few weeks of adjustment and difficulty to cause me to depend on him in a way that I hadn't before. I was suddenly very aware of my selfishness, impatience, frustration, anger, pride, and autonomy. But I also saw God's patience, kindness, love, sovereignty, forbearance, and faithfulness more clearly than I had before having Hudson. 

The past two and a half years of our seminary experience have been a roller coaster ride. Though, I am so thankful for how God has blessed us and for what he continues to teach me through this time. He has surprised us in many ways, but God never withheld his great grace in the midst of every circumstance. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Life of A Seminary Wife: Part 1 - Struggles

When you decide as a family to attend seminary, you choose to sacrifice. The difficulties that accompany seminary may be because the wife came with a set of expectations that were unmet, or because her husband is stretched too thin. Nevertheless, all of us must admit that seminary is taxing for both student and spouse. 

To begin this series, I want to first look at the struggles that so many wives face when they come to seminary.

The Situation

Your husband is in class. You are either working full-time outside the home to support him, working inside the home by caring for your children, or a combination of the two. You hear the word "busy" more often that you can count. You may feel like you see your husband only at mealtime and bedtime. You are both working hard to utilize the time that God has ordained for you while in seminary, but sometimes working, taking classes, serving at the church, and caring for your family gets overwhelming. What results is tough questions about what you are doing here in the first place. 

Can you resonate with any (or all) of these? I can. When Chance and I first moved to Dallas, we jumped right into our church and began serving, while also participating in a ministry outside of the church. I started a full-time job at a financial management company, while Chance took a full load of summer classes. I hadn't known what to expect, but I figured it would take some time to adjust to our new schedules. 

In the midst of all that, I was trying to build new friendships and find time to invest in those relationships that I hoped would last a lifetime. This was all new. As I attempted to navigate the waters of seminary life, I realized that I could go through this whole experience feeling overwhelmed

The Struggles

"I'm just here for him!" If you are at seminary with your husband, it is [hopefully] because the Lord has specifically called him to be trained for ministry. However, God has called your husband and you to the ministry. One mistake that I believe many wives make is that they come to seminary for their husband, rather than with their husband. What I mean by this is that wives will say that they are just here while their husband gets his degree, yet they do not see the unique opportunity that they themselves have to get trained to be in ministry alongside their husband. 

At the opening event for DTS's seminary wives, I heard the advisor to SWIM (Seminary Wives In Ministry) say very pointedly that both you and your husband are getting that degree. That clicked for me. I began using the phrase "we are in seminary" rather than singling Chance out. This was due to her exhortation that my husband was not going to get through this experience without my support. 

Both Chance and I, as a married couple, have been called to a life of ministry. As his wife, I am to fully support my husband no matter what, as long as he is obeying the Lord and living according to God's Word. I am here with my husband. I am not against him. I am not just tagging along. I am really with him in seminary. 

Loneliness - At a place like seminary, the most ironic thing is that everyone is going through much the same experience as you are, yet oftentimes you can feel very alone. If I gathered 10 women in a room and asked them what their biggest struggle has been while at seminary, I would guess that 9 out of 10 of those ladies would confess to feeling isolated and/or lonely. 

Here you are in a place amongst other Christian women, all preparing alongside their husbands for ministry, and you feel like you can't connect or that you are weird for feeling alone. This is understandable because, as I mentioned previously, your husband is in a season where his time is stretched thin. He has a load of responsibilities that he is trying to balance. That means that he's probably not home every night of week, and you may not be able to go on date as often as you'd like. 

Wives can accept the fact that this is a temporary experience, and do their best to help their husbands balance their time wisely. Or they can become embittered and resentful. The latter is the worst option, because, as unrepentant bitterness fosters, your unity with God and your husband is jeopardized.

Unmet expectations - Lastly, many wives comes to seminary with a set of expectations. The expectation that we wives are going to build great community, as soon as they walk on campus, is common. Or wives expect that their husbands will gain crystal clear insight as to his future ministry within the first semester. 

For those of us who have been at seminary longer than a year, we can attest to the fact that things often don't pan out how we expected. Relationships can take a while to form,  rarely appearing out of thin air. Even amongst Christians, long-lasting friendships are built through time, intentionality, and selflessness. Accepting this up front will be of great value to you in the long run. 

Additionally, a husband who has sensed a calling to pastoral ministry may decide to pursue a further degree instead of going straight into the ministry once he graduates. Likewise, another man who was confident that God wanted him to go to overseas, may instead choose to become a shepherd to God's flock in the local church context. Whatever direction God chooses to take your husband, having set expectations (that you feel MUST come to pass) may damage your perspective on how God wants to use both of you to further his kingdom. 

These are simply three ways that I have observed (and experienced) struggles in my time here at seminary. Thankfully, God provides us with everything that we need for life and godliness in his Word. In the next post, I will relay some of the tremendous ways that God has used this period of time to grow me and cause me to see his grace in my life. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Life of a Seminary Wife

After two years of being here in Dallas, at this place of theological study place (otherwise known as "seminary") I have begun to think and reflect on my time as a seminary wife. This year I have the privilege and opportunity to coordinate Dallas Seminary's "Seminary Wives in Nurturing Groups" ministry (better known as SWING). This position has had it's challenges and blessings, but it has also given me some major insights into the mind of the average seminary wife. My desire is to write a series of posts addressing the unique challenges and common struggles of being a seminary wife, as well as discuss the profound blessings and enormous encouragements that I've experienced in this season of life. Stay tuned for this upcoming series!

"I therefore, a prisoner for The Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (Ephesians 4:1)