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Get a Job Bartending?

Feb 10 2012

I’ll be thirty by the time I graduate seminary.  And as much as I’d love for that to be the “finish line,” I’ll end up spending a few years in probation or whatever they’re calling it these days.  Then, finally, I’ll be ordained.  The promise land will be reached!  

But I know this isn’t true.  

Many of the goals I’ve set in life are illusions: A degree on a piece of paper, a job that will make me love myself, a relationship that will solve all my problems, or an education that will give me all the answers.  Truth is, life can’t be sorted into nice little categories—and neither can seminary.  

It’s not really until I get off campus that I realize what seminary is offering me.  A few years ago, I drove to Michigan to meet Rob Bell.  After the church service, I asked him for seminary advice.  He recommended the school he had gone to, but then added that “most seminaries will be fine.”  What he was really concerned with was that I get a job that would “keep me grounded.”  

He told me to get a job bartending.  

I must have looked perplexed because he went on to explain himself.  Rob shared how seminary has a way of pulling you so far into the conceptual realm that you forget why you came to seminary in the first place.  

Well I took his advice.  (Not the bartending... the job.)  I work as a brain trainer.  (Google it.)  One of my students is this six year-old kid who has learning difficulties.  In the same afternoon, I go from talking about ancient history and context, theological reflection, and cultural movements to explaining the days of the week or how tic-tac-toe works.  Have you ever tried explaining to someone how “three-in-a-row” wins the game?   I find that talking about theology and religion with someone is a very similar feeling.  There’s a certain mindset it takes to break down a concept into pieces a person can digest.  Too much, and they lose it all.  Too little, and they don’t grow.  

Seminary here at Wesley does this to you.  Some things seem monotonous.  Some things seem overwhelming.  There’s no magical transformation. You’re being trained one small piece at a time.  God is not in a rush.  And three years seems like a long time.  This degree, candidacy, goals - it’s all made up.  But you’re real.  That six year-old is real.  Those people out there looking for God and looking for hope—they’re real.  The information and ideas and love that seep into you over your seminary career—that’s real, too.  

So don’t think this will be easy.  This isn’t about 90 credits or some grades or some theological concepts.  So clear your head, my friend—and get a job bartending.

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