By Claire Kermitz
With a little over two months into my first semester as a seminarian, I am proud to say I am alive and well. I survived my first wave of midterms and papers; I survived my first fight with the style guide. I survived Dr. Allen's infamous first test; and by the goodness of God I find myself on the other side with more knowledge, more support, and more energy than when I walked in the front doors on the first day of classes.
My mentor from home called me last week and asked how school / life was going. After a long pause, I answered her saying, “It may seem odd but the one phrase I can use to sum up school so far is 'one giant paradox.'” After an even longer pause on her end, her response was, “Wait, what?” Yes, it does sound strange but let me explain my paradoxical state.
I have two jobs, a full course load (five classes), and I attempt to maintain a social life. Yet, somehow I have more energy now than when I walked into the doors. Seems like a giant paradox.
I was told before coming to seminary that I was going to be tired and sleep deprived. Yes, this is immensely true- yet I have more energy! I don't get eight hours of sleep each night – or even five at that. So yes, I do have my days where it seems improbable to get out of bed.
Even without getting enough sleep, I have more energy due to the fact that while being here for only a few short months — I have found a home. I have found a home in the support and encouragement of my fellow classmates and from the wonderful faculty and staff. I have found a home that challenges me to think differently and gives me the knowledge and support to wrestle with tough challenges. It's a paradox!
Another reason why my experience is off to a great start is because the professors allow me to think critically and openly about my own faith journey. My mentor told me before I moved to Atlanta to prepare for my “God-box” to blow up. She meant that my theology would get rocked. I braced myself with clinched fists. And my mentor was right! My theology and “God-box” is in transition; yet, I'm okay. I simultaneously feel more confident and more unsettled. But in the midst of the uncertainty and questioning, my faith is growing. My theology is lying in bits and pieces scattered around my feet, but I can see it developing a firmer foundation than before. And in the midst of this creation, I see my life and faith changing and strengthening for the better.
My Church History professor, Dr. Allen, has a catch phrase he uses in class: “mamma and them.” It might gain some laughter, but the challenge from it is to think about whether or not my faith is my own or something passed down to me from “momma and them.” This single phrase causes me to delve deep into my “God-box” in order to discover what my core values are as well as find out what I believe based on my education and my listening to the Spirit of the living God.
My Old Testament professor, Dr. Garber, challenges me to interpret difficult texts. He doesn't force me to abandon my past ways of thinking, but he rather helps me to learn and to listen to opinions different from mine. This exercise helps me to explore Scripture in a new light.
And it is in the midst of these late nights and early mornings where I find renewed energy while having my “God-box” reshaped. I find strength in both the encouragement and challenges I receive at McAfee. My first semester is more exciting and life-giving than I imagined it could be. I credit this to the support of my professors and peers who have made these first few weeks some of the most memorable. I'm excited to see where this paradoxical life leads.
Claire Kermitz is a first year student at McAfee School of Theology. She is a graduate of Florida State University and a member at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.