Can I be honest? Last year was challenging. Seminary has been challenging. The challenge hasn’t been academic, it’s more of a spiritually and emotional challenge. Before you read further, let me ask you to let go of your preconceived notions about what you think church, pastors, God, religion, Christianity should be. Stop! Don’t taint your understanding of this post or your life with what you think you know about those things. I entered Seminary also known as graduate studies focused on religion primarily because I wanted to study concepts of religion in a disciplined environment. I genuinely wanted to understand my personal faith value and unpack what drives other people in their faith stories. Even prior to attending Seminary, I understood the important role faith plays in our society. Case in point, voting patterns are predicted based on religious trends. What we believe impacts how we live. Our beliefs are the fabric of our culture. I have come to understand that I love culture. Art,music, film, traditions and all the things that mark how we live and why.
To keep this from dragging out painfully I will admit that Seminary has been emotionally challenging because it forces you to confront your own personal convictions and interact with people who are also going through the same process. To intensify this predicament, I chose to live with 14 of these people. It’s not all bad. These people and our communal wrestling has changed my life. I’ve often expressed how thankful I am to have the luxury of taking time to read, study, unpack my personal hangups, reflect on God in the midst of it all and discuss it with other people on the same journey. I realize this is a luxury because the average person with a demanding job, kids and/or a spouse may not have as much time in their lives to do these things. Our culture doesn’t teach us about self care or that soul work doesn’t magically happen because you show up for church. It takes time, dedication and focus.
Before seminary, no one could have told me that I was a short-fused emotional time bomb. Sure, I understood that it’s perfectly normal for a person to get upset. However, there was a reason why one of my formers used to call me “Miss Gone in 60 Seconds.” Although, I rejected that nickname, it was given to me because it really didn’t take much to emotionally charge me and send me into a presumptive rage. Through my experiences here in DC, I have had to confront my proclivity to being emotionally charged, understand the reasons why I am that way and begin to correct my behavior. I had to accept the fact that I can’t show up in the room as the best Jazmine being an emotionally reactive person. I can’t excel in relationships professional or personal being that way. That was hard to swallow. The first step to improvement is admitting you have a problem. So there you go.
Being emotionally reactive will have you telling your boss (even in his unprofessional delusion) what you blatantly will not be doing. Being emotionally reactive will have you completely walk off and leave a man on a “supposed date” because his text chimed too much. At the end of the day Jazz means well but I just don’t have the patience emotionally to deal with nonsense and it’s a reason why my tolerance is so low. One reason is the fact I’m from Detroit. No, but really. I could name a lot of people in my life and sphere of influence that it doesn’t take much for them tol set it off on you. My own mother’s motto is “People don’t understand nice. Sometimes you have to elevate”
The grown woman work has been identifying personal issues like that and beginning to heal and get better. I’ve learned it’s not okay to just say, “that’s how I am.” How you “are” may not be healthy. I took up this course of study to aid my career in empowering and changing communities but I have learned another valuable and indirect lesson. You can’t help someone else until you help yourself.
Needless to say, Seminary is challenging because it requires a lot of time and energy. It’s a self-discovery process and everyone is intensely unpacking. In seminary, I have watched my colleagues unpack issues of sexual abuse, mental health, black identity, self-esteem and sexual identity. Add faith values to that mixture and just imagine the adventure. As Seminarians we call it “wrestling.”
I’m sure it sounds deep and people probably wouldn’t expect all that in seminary from future leaders of the church. I didn’t expect it but here I am in the middle of it all. The issues I listed are all a part of the human condition which are the very points of affliction that gnaw at our souls and keep us from fully experiencing God’s glory. No one is exempt from the flawed human condition. Not you, me or your future pastor. These points of affliction are real, present in our society and the pulse of ministry.
I could go on about the 90 credits of Christian history, systematic theology, and Biblical interpretation I have received (and some day I will) but I don’t think all of that is the critical point. The point is: Our imperfect beings crave love but somehow we struggle to love others emphatically. Can you begin to fathom what loving emphatically means? Sit with the word emphatic for a few moments. What would loving emphatically require from you? Loving emphatically goes beyond the adoration you have for your close-knit friends and family. Loving emphatically goes beyond throwing leftover change in a cup.
Christ’s story is an example of emphatic love— at minimum. And, emphatic love is powerful.
Somehow, I don’t know how to write a 300-word blog post. This thing is way too long. Consider this my yearly public address. Seminary has been tough for many reasons, I have shared one with you today. I also ended a 2.5 year relationship with a very sweet young man. Through it all, I am grateful to emerge a more self-aware young woman poised for graduation in two semesters. My proudest moment of the year was fulfilling one of my life’s desires to visit the horn of Africa–the birthplace of civilization! It was such an enriching and unforgettable experience. I could write pages on that alone. Let’s make 2015 a year where I blog more. Yes? Videos? We’ll see.
In short Jazmine has been working, studying and exfoliating. Let’s consider this seminary process the sloughing off of all things lifeless to reveal a more polished and rejuvenated work in progress. Cheers!