Following Christ into the Classroom at Midlife
I never imagined that the same impulse that led me to sneak an oversized, hardcover Strong's Concordance into my bedroom when I was a teenager would lead me into a seminary classroom at age 54.
My Jewish parents forbade me to attend church as long as I was living under their roof. My newfound faith in my Messiah required care and feeding, so I used my well-honed teenage sneaking skills to skulk incognito into the local Christian bookstore and buy books. I'd shove my treasures into my backpack or under my jacket and slip them into my bedroom. Most notably, I once spirited past them the massive concordance that must have tipped the scale at more than six pounds.
It was a measure of my spiritual hunger that I would go to such extremes. I devoured Christian classics and borderline heresy, good writing and bad, and plenty of books filled with shoulds and shouldn'ts (few titles back in the 1970's seemed to entertained "maybe" as a possibility).
I ached to know what God was doing in the wide world beyond my bedroom discipleship school. Christian radio and magazines, including Christianity Today, told me that story. I doubt the CT staff imagined that there were many Jewish teen Jesus freaks reading their work. But there was at least one - me.
I married young and built a life with my husband and our three young children that included lots of church participation and eventually, ministry leadership roles. I relished the freedom to follow Jesus openly, but often struggled with the reality of the myopic smallness and political infighting that seemed to leave their mark on congregational life. The experiences shared by those who'd shared their own struggles in the pages of Christianity Today and Leadership regularly reminded me that others were experiencing the same challenges we were. Their words affirmed what we were learning in the trenches: Ministry was simultaneously impossible and joyous, packed with soul-wearying challenges and overflowing with kingdom possibilities.
My reading habit formed my writing vocation. One way I began to discern what the Holy Spirit was teaching me (or telling me to delete from my soul!) was writing about the ideas in all those books I was devouring. In my 20s and 30s, I wrote plays, skits, and curriculum. Eventually, I began to write about spiritual formation and church life.
Not so ironically, a book review I did for Englewood Review of Books led to a request from the editor of the Her.meneutics. When my first post for this relatively new blog went live, I had a yippee skipee moment: How cool was it that I had something of value to add to the conversation in the CT community?
That Her.meneutics post led to another, and another, and a whole bunch more after that. That work, along with all the other writing I've done (books, blogs and a whole lot of the miscellaneous that comprises a freelance writer's work life) and a rich, raggedy patchwork of ministry and life experience, led to an unexpected invitation this summer to enroll at Northern Seminary as a special status student. I wrote about my lack of a degree for Her.meneutics a year and a half ago, but a gracious professor at the school saw promise in my work and value in my experience. He went to bat on my behalf.
CT has played a key role in my journey, helping me see what it can look like to follow Jesus into the world he loves via conversation, service, worship, vocation, presence … and now, the classroom.
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