After writing about our current search for a house, a friend of mine and I discussed some of the expectations or things we pictured in our minds while in seminary. I can remember trying to picture what kind of job my husband would get while we were in seminary. My husband really didn’t know what career he wanted to pursue, but he knew it would be in ministry. Honestly, I pictured us going overseas or something, partly because that’s all I really knew when it came to ministry. We had no idea of the incredible plan God had in store for our family.
My husband grew up in the country of a tiny town in Mississippi. He lived in the same house his entire life and went to the same small Baptist church down the road from his house. I, however, grew up exactly opposite of him. The longest I ever lived in one place was seven years (but even then, I was going back and forth to boarding school). We moved around a good bit, and I don’t think I can tell you how many churches I’ve been to or even all the languages they spoke. Our upbringing was completely different, so there was no surprise when we began to discuss our future while we were dating. My husband pictured buying some land in that tiny town and perhaps raising cows. (I still laugh about that idea!) I pictured having a large family in a strange looking home across the ocean in a town or village. You can see how different our ideas were for the future. After we had been married for almost three years, my husband began seminary, still with no idea what the future held or even how long it would take to get out of seminary. We imagined at least three to four years. While in seminary those pictures of overseas missions and living in a rural area were still in my head. The ideas of a small town and a small church were what my husband still pictured. Thank the Lord, He had a better plan than we did!
When we moved to Georgia, we had no idea how much we would love it here. My husband and I were walking around our sweet little neighborhood and he said, “You know, I never dreamed I’d be in a place like this and in a position at such an amazing church.” Me either! Sometimes we have to take a step back and just praise the living God for orchestrating this life for us. We had no idea my husband would be offered such an incredible opportunity only two years into his master’s degree. We had no idea how God would move us into such a beautiful town with such sweet people and community. We could not have imagined a better place to raise our kids and grow our family! No matter how hard we tried to picture our future while we were in seminary, we couldn’t have pictured a finer church and people to serve. God has blessed us tremendously and for some reason, keeps on pouring down those blessings. He’s a good Father!
I realize that each seminary student has a different story to tell after seminary. Some seminary friends of ours received job offers right before graduation day. Some seminary friends were not offered jobs after graduation and ended up having to move into the home of a family member or finding a random day job. There were some that went overseas for world mission work and some that planted churches in the west. Good friends of ours are church planters but are struggling to get connected to larger churches to even begin the idea of planting a church in their area. Another sweet family we know moved to a very small town in Louisiana to serve as the lead pastor in a tiny Southern Baptist church. There are handfuls that did not get offers after graduation and ended up staying in seminary to earn a doctorate. Some planned to go to seminary for two or three years and ended up staying for ten! There are some that planned for a longer time in seminary and ended up leaving early for whatever reason. There isn’t an A or B answer to what life will look like after seminary or even if you’ll pastor a large church or a small church or even pastor at all. There is much of the future to behold when you are in seminary. I know it is scary and sometimes you don’t even know where to begin to pray for your future. The truth is, the world is your option and only God knows what’s in store for you.
My advice to you: First of all, stop picturing that perfect idea of what your life will look like after seminary. Chances are, it’s not going to look anything like what you thought it would. I won’t promise that it will be better than what you imagined, because there’s a good chance the Lord will move you into an area that might be difficult for you. I’ve heard it said that the place that you don’t want to go is often where the Lord sends you. That might sound discouraging, but Matthew 8:19-22 tells us: “And a scribe came up and said to him, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go’. And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’” Jesus never said the Christian life would be easy. In fact, He said it will be hard. So many stories come to mind of people who surrendered their futures to the Lord and though the journey the Lord has them on is not easy, they are blessed through it all somehow. Even though our life here has been so wonderful, so far it doesn’t come without its struggles. Second, pray for an open mind and heart as you begin sending out resumes and discussing future plans. Pray for guidance and clarity as you and your husband go on interviews. Pray for patience when the offers don’t come pouring in when you want them to. Third, don’t give up. God’s timing is not our timing, but He has plans for you – “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Picture this: your obedience to whatever the Lord calls you and your family to do.