Going to Seminary | Part 1

by Elouise

FTS, PaytonHall_Day_0021

The Garth — meeting place, lunch plaza, outdoor office, place to hang out. The Library gleams at the far end. Not much has changed in The Garth since 1973.

It’s late spring 1973. I’ll turn 30 this year. After 8 years of marriage and nearly 5 years of motherhood, including 4 years as a Faculty Wife, I don’t know who I am!

How do I know this? Because I have to send a personal essay with my application, and I don’t know how to answer all the questions.

Other people don’t have a problem knowing who I am:

  • D’s wife, Faculty Wife, part-time instructor of music and piano
  • Hostess, mother of cute son and cute daughter
  • Intelligent, laundress, caretaker, seamstress, cook, gardener, house cleaner and dish washer.
  • Also graduate of the Bible College, Diane’s sister, and preacher’s kid.

Even if I figure out who I am, I still have to write an essay about MY goals, including MY vision for MY life beyond seminary!

My goals are simple: Get through one day at a time without too much drama, heartache, disappointment or quarreling. Did I write this in my essay? No.

My vision for my life beyond seminary is even more difficult. The easy answer: Follow D wherever he goes!

Not very original, I know, but I’m clueless. Furthermore, I don’t feel fire in my bones about anything in particular beyond the needs of today. Is that so bad?

I got through the getting-to-know-you questions. They were easy. Something about my family, my church, my education up to then, my hobbies and things like that.

But then came the biggie: Why do I want to go to Seminary?

What I actually said was something like this:

  • I want to read and study, especially theology and the Bible.

True enough. It fit the pattern of my life so far.

What didn’t I say? It was also true. I thought it in my head, and I’m going to tell you right now what it was:

  • My Bible College degree isn’t accredited. If I ever want to do further study beyond seminary, a degree from an accredited seminary would validate all academic work I’d completed up to then.

Brilliant, true and pragmatic! Like I said, though, I didn’t write this in my application.

Another question was also difficult. They wanted to know about major growth in my life in the last several years. I wrote a harmless surface answer that didn’t communicate much substance at all. Nevertheless, it was true.

More interesting is what I didn’t write. Here it is:

  • I’ve grown in skills—the kind needed for being a mother, housewife and hostess.
  • I’ve also grown in practical knowledge–the kind needed to care for sick babies and young children, and how to make homemade yogurt, jam or bread. Or stretch dollars to last as long as possible.

Then there was the spiritual growth question. Yes, I’d grown there, too. Mainly in my ability to be a servant, not a leader. I don’t look down on being a servant. It just means I’m there to help you be the best person you can be. Often without attention to my own preferences or needs.

One other tough question: When did you become a Christian? I don’t know. I grew up being one. I can’t tell you when, where or how it happened. I can’t remember how I finessed that one.

It’s a good thing they didn’t ask me what books I’d read recently. Would they count Dr. Seuss books? Babar the Elephant books? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Dr. Spock? Adelle Davis?

Is there a point to this rambling? Yes!

We have a twofold mismatch here that happily became a match. I wasn’t the kind of student they were looking for, and they didn’t have a clue how to deal with women who were entering the seminary.

When I entered seminary in fall 1973, there were 500 students total. Of these, 30 were women.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 November 2015
Photo thanks to Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California