“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31: 8
If life had a rewind button, I would rewind back to my first year of seminary and assure myself that everything will be okay. I would try to understand God’s faithfulness in a new way. I would trust my Mom and Dad’s wisdom as they quoted verses like Deuteronomy 31:8 to me on the phone while I stressed about trying to write my first sermon and not being able to get past the initial writer’s block. I would trust that God does come alongside us and is constantly with us in our struggles through Hebrew and Greek, as we are challenged to try to make new friends, navigate our way around a new city, try to explain the Trinity to five year olds in our field education churches, learn to think theologically, and balance life with school demands. The Lord goes before us and we are called to put our trust in Him. But this can be a struggle. Right now, I am trying to trust in God as I am struggling to finish my final papers, pack my apartment, and continue to check things off my Pittsburgh bucket list while hanging out with friends. As I reflect back on my time at PTS, I realize I am still a work in progress and who is learning to rely on God more and more each day with each new experience. This has been something invaluable I have learned in seminary.
While my time at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has challenged my stamina, faith, patience, ideals, and world view; it has also allotted me the space to learn more and prepare for a life-long study of theology and practice of ministry. I’m grateful that I have learned lessons inside and outside of the classroom. I am also thankful for the opportunities provided by WMI and Valentour fellowship which allowed me to travel around the world to see how God is working in and through our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Seminary gave me the opportunity to meet and live in community with friends.
Thinking about the next step after graduation can be scary. It can be so scary myself and other seniors may not want to talk about it. Graduation will be bittersweet. I will be excited to see what is in store for myself and classmates but I know I will also miss this chapter in my life. I am not sure where I will be next year but I know that the Lord has gone before me and my classmates and I know the Lord will be with us always.
written by Amanda Maguire, senior M.Div student
I’m thankful for this opportunity to write what I’m thinking because people are asking or assuming what I am thinking anyway. Yes, I am graduating and no, I do not know what I am doing after May 31. I plan on staying in my apartment until June 3 at noon, which is when I have to move out according to my lease. At least I was given a couple of days as a graduating senior. So after June 3 I don’t know what I will do. It’s been exciting to think about churches I could imagine myself serving in as friends and fellow graduates contemplate their futures and I check out the listings on the Presbyterian jobs website. I still have to wait for another ordination exam and some more months to finish my candidacy stage. I have applied to a non-ordained ministry position but I am still waiting to hear if I was accepted. Applying for that position and interviewing were great learning opportunities, and exciting as well, again trying to imagine myself serving the church and wondering how the work would play out among the people I would work with and the people I would work for.
I still have to graduate - but I’m not adding “God willing” to the end like I used to. I added that soon after my first year because term after term I felt like I was just getting by, that surely some test score would pull me down and my GPA would get too low. I kept getting what I needed, sometimes not much more than that. I’ve had my struggles and found help for them, even when they would not go away. Turns out I really did need a small group of guys way more than I realized. I’ve been supported in so many ways to survive and thrive. As I write this I still know that I will graduate only as God wills because I can’t pull this off by myself.
I like what we have read and studied but I wish I didn’t have to spend so much time doing it. This has been a time of cramming. Even in this last month I sometimes have to fight it out to try and finish the book or reading required for the next class. Getting this work done does give me a sense of accomplishment. I suppose its naive to think I’ll have more time to read more leisurely. I do hope to have more time to read some of the books I put on my online wish list. I wish I felt more confident but I will still continue to serve where I understand God to be calling me. I have studied great things and learned from great professors.
Paul Spangler, Senior M.Div. Student
My life has been a struggle, trying to survive in a foreign land far away from those I knew as a child and adult. This struggle took a different turn, had a different meaning after I accepted my call to attend PTS. Initially I felt like I was lost in the wilderness, a sojourner in a foreign land. Nothing made sense to me. Matthew 7:7 was my anchor, knowing that God would comfort me and speak to me. Indeed God did; PTS has been my home for the last four years. This was not exactly what I was hoping for when I prayed to God but God told me to run the race with perseverance.
The first few years of my seminary life, I felt that I was in the wilderness. Prayers, petitions and lamentations were my expressions to the Lord, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord”. As I sought for God’s mercy, God taught me a lesson of humility. I learned to fully surrender to the Lord. I accepted to be the potter’s clay. He is the Creator and Sovereign God. My life and my future are in his hands. I trust and rely on Him in ALL things. After surrendering to the Lord, my life became more meaningful to me. I began to hear God’s voice more clearly through my study. The challenges I once saw as obstacles became opportunities for me to learn. I understood that the race I am running is a marathon. Like any marathon, I needed to be trained and equipped for the task. The training is hard; I need to have the endurance and perseverance to cross the finishing line.
As Christians, each one of us has to run our race and we will all face difficulties along the way. With perseverance we can resist the temptation to desist or turn aside before reaching the goal. We need to trust God in every circumstance and know that God is sovereign. We need to focus on our final destination which is the heavenly home God prepared for us and to live our life here as He taught us. We must always remember that salvation through Christ is our only guarantee to reach our ultimate goal. Our Heavenly Father is waiting for each one of us at the finish line; we will rest in God’s arms, will hear God whispering in our ears “a job well done. You’re my faithful servant.” Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we run our race. I have been blessed to have the time to strengthen my relationship with the Lord while at PTS; I pray that you, my colleagues, brothers and sisters in Christ, will experience this same joy. May you wait upon the Lord patiently so you will mount up your wings like an eagle in God’s time.
To God be the glory.
Written by Minh Towner, Senior M.Div student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary