The more I write, the more I realize that I’ve got a bunch of great friends. My friend Dan is in his final year of seminary at Moody Bible Institute. He’s been working on his Master’s of Divinity for four years now with the goal of becoming a chaplain. I met Dan in 2009 when we worked together at the Children’s Home as Residential Counselor’s, working with 10 boys age 13-20 with mild mental retardation, behavior disorders, and sexual behavior problems. It was then that he started his M.Div program at Moody, traveling every Wednesday and Thursday for the last four years to take classes on site at Moody. He told me then that he wanted to be a chaplain at a hospital, and that totally fits him. He’s the most peaceful person I know (a statement he will object to, but is nonetheless true). In the midst of the last four years, Dan and his wife Mandy have had their first two children, their second only about 2 months ago. Currently, Dan is a chaplaincy candidate in the United States Air Force, meaning that on top of traveling to Chicago two days every week, he is away from his family for a month out of the year with the Air Force. That’s commitment to a goal.
Dan invited me over for lunch today to talk about my upcoming endeavor into the world of seminary training. Since he has lots more experience with balancing work, family, and school, and the fact that he is about 10 times more mature than me, I took him up on the offer. I love Dan for that. He made us some fried egg sandwiches with reheated spicy lentil soup, which we both used as a spread (it was thick) on our sandwiches. He was home alone with his two kids (2 and 2 months old), and his daughter was being fed a steady diet of Dora the Explorer as we talked.
Dan told me about his experience of learning through failure. The first failure that he shared with me was his failure to pay attention to how he was budgeting his time between work, travel, school, and time with his wife/family. He said that this year, his fourth/fifth year of this journey, he has finally made a schedule, outlining every half hour of his day and what he is using it for, starting at 5:30 every morning. His schedule includes working out (he runs on a treadmill and reads his books at the same time), work hours, family time, and study time. Dan said that he wished he would have decided to do this much sooner because it would have saved him and his wife a lot of headaches: Now she knows when he is studying so she can honor that, and she knows when he is planning on giving the family his full, undivided, attention. I can’t explain how grateful I am to him for sharing this with me as I would, likely, never have thought of scheduling my time. He is saving me from failing my family for the next three years (or five, according to him).
Dan then told me about his experience of failing two of his classes. He said he needed to fail these classes in order to learn that even he’s capable of failing. One of the classes he failed the first time around was one taught by friend Zach’s dad. As we talked about this experience, he talked about how he experienced grace in a new way by being allowed to fail and take the class again. I can’t imagine failing a class that I spent 3 months of my life, work, and research on. Dan said he failed because he didn’t complete the work in the manner in which it was intended to be completed: his final project was to be a directed study and he treated it as an independent study. That seems so much to me like splitting hairs, but the simple fact that he shared this with me prepared me for the unexpected consequences of not following the syllabus.
Dan talked about how the teachers in graduate level classes don’t hold your hand on things. One of his professors was continually using a term that no one in the class had heard before. He asked the teacher to explain the term, and the teacher responded by saying, “There is a library here on campus, and you are seminary students. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can go look it up in the library. That’s not my job.” Dan shared this to prepare me for being a self-guided learner, something that I’m pretty good at, but still an astonishing refusal on the part of the teacher to actually teach, wouldn’t you say?
Dan talked with me about the beauty of Hebrew and reading the Hebrew scriptures in their original language, about how fulfilling his experience has been, and encouraged me to get as much out of my upcoming education as possible. He’s a great guy.
Then I spent the rest of the time talking with Dan about how I have refused to pursue the very degree he is getting because I feel it is a bit antiquated. How rude am I? He’s spent the last four years of his life on a degree program that I, his friend, just told him is “antiquated”. Like I said, Dan is ten times more mature than me. He was understandably defensive of the M.Div program, and actually explained it to me in a way that I’ve never heard it explained before, and caused me to second guess the degree that I am pursuing. Great. Leave it to me to throw something out there and then find myself falling flat on my face.
All that to say, after today, I feel way more equipped for my upcoming endeavor into seminary because a good friend took the time to make me a meal and share his experiences with me. God is good, and has blessed me with good friends who care about me and my success in life. I am so grateful for that.