confessions of a seminarian

I have two confessions to make.

1. I’m drowning.

For anyone who has seen me in the past month (or for my mom who has heard enough about it), this one won’t be a surprise… something about the messy hair (not the cute “I’m trying to look like I don’t care” kind, but the “I really don’t care” kind), the deer-in-the-headlights eyes, or my showing up late everywhere I go habit has probably cued you in. It’s the school load, and I know I’m not the only one. They always say that “2nd year is the hardest,” and I’m finding that 2nd semester of 2nd year is really the hardest. I love most of my classes, but now that we are about a month in, the work load is like a flood. Continuous. Unrelenting. Suffocating. And I’m drowning in it. All the New Testament-exegeting, Reformation-studying, sermon-writing, pastorally-caring, German-speaking, and contextual-educationing amounts to 18 credit hours and one stressed-out woman.

This brings me to my second confession, which is a harder one to make.

2. I’m not a very good pray-er.

I can pray out loud in front of people and lead a prayer meeting at church… but my personal prayer life generally stinks. We say that in theology school we get so busy talking about God that we forget to talk to God. This is true, but that’s actually not the kind of prayer I mean… That is, if I tell somebody, “I’m praying for you,” I actually will voice prayers for that person and their situation. I’m pretty good at telling God what we want and need.

However, its being still and listening in the presence of God that I can’t seem to do.

Maybe this is my problem in the first place… thinking that prayer is another thing to do, when, if you reread the last sentence, the verbs there are being and listening. The kind of prayer I can’t seem to do, is the kind that requires us to just be. To listen. 

So, I decided to do something about my rotten prayer life at the beginning of the semester and I learned a couple prayer practices with ancient monastic roots – breath prayer, the Jesus prayer, chanted prayer – and carved out some time to do these. I read a verse in scripture and just sat in silent meditation. It was great! I loved it! I felt nearer to God, and my mind kept returning to that time later in the day as I went about my business.

But… I haven’t been able to make the daily time for these practices.

I feel drawn to be in God’s presence. My soul cries, “Lord, hide me in the shadow of your wings.” But I’m too busy flailing about in the flood waters to listen to that voice.

This really is just a confession. Notice that I’m not saying, “And now I wake up at 4 AM to make time for prayer and its great!” Is anybody else with me on this? Does anybody actually spend regular time in utter stillness? I know I could do 5 minutes a day, but I don’t want prayer to feature as another item on my to-do list. (Lousy excuse, I know.)

Help me out, friends. Inspire me with a comment about your practice of prayer. Or, just pray for me. 😉

2 thoughts on “confessions of a seminarian

  1. Great post Meredith and thanks for your vulnerability.

    I'm living in point #1 as well and it's breaking me down. I fee like I'm in the ring with Mike Tyson and everytime I get off the mat, “BOOM!” he catches me again with another shot that knocks me back down again.

    As for point #2, I've forced myself to get up 20 minutes earlier each morning for quiet time and devotional. I realized I needed it something bad when I wrote last semester about “5 Things I Don't Want People To Know About Me While I'm in Seminary.” You aren't alone here. It stinks when the alarm goes off but now if I miss that time, I feel sick the rest of the day. I honestly believe this is the only way I've been able to keep my head from being the last thing to go under water.

    Thanks again for this post Meredith. Let me know if I can do anything to help out or share with you. There are a lot of folks like us right now.



  2. Mere-

    I hate to hear that you are drowning but I know you and am absolutely sure that you will make your best effort and will swim to the other side with grace and beautiful form (okay so maybe the metaphor can only go so far). I know that you are gradually cutting out some of the other things that you have been working on and I hope that you find that somewhat helpful.

    Prayer is hard for me because I am still not sure that I fully get it. How does it work? Why is is that sometimes things happen that I don't pray for and sometimes things happen that I do?! (these are somewhat rhetorical here). We talked a lot in our spirituality course about different ways to pray- praying with your whole being. I think that is some of what you are getting at here? How can it become part of simply who you are. I found that Labyrinth walking for me was very helpful… and not only walking with my feet but my fingers on a page as well. It allowed me to focus and gave me something to “do” but I began to realize there was only one way in and there was only one way out and I had to trek through the circles to make it there. I wonder too if just trying several times until you find your rhythm- give yourself freedom to try.

    Just know that I love you and am so proud to call you “kindred.”



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