By Jenna Sullivan
As I approached the long-awaited event of graduation, I began to reflect on my experience of earning my Master of Divinity. Why did I choose this three-year seminary degree? Why did I choose to sit in classrooms and wrestle with existential questions, theological perspectives and endless discussions with peers?
As I remember my first visit to Wake Forest School of Divinity, I know that I felt called to this place. It was not an intellectual decision. I did not weigh my pros and cons, nor did I research salaries of M.Div. graduates or rates of employment. Call me a naive millennial if you want, but I see it differently.
I chose to do what my soul yearned for. My soul yearned for a new, refreshing sip of the Living Water found in the sacred spaces of divinity school. My soul yearned for time to develop my identity as a Christian, minister and woman.
Coming straight out of undergraduate school to a graduate program is a challenging journey. I literally feel like I “grew up” at divinity school. These early twenties are critical in developing the person I am and dreaming about the person I want to be. But what better place to grow up? God mothered me through some dark nights of the soul. She also mothered me through some beautiful moments of growth.
In all of it, I have learned that there are a few things that I have gained through my M.Div. that may not count in this capitalist society that says degrees should be more about getting a job than getting a soul-makeover. Here we go…
- The ability to struggle. I mean STRUGGLE. Struggle with hard conversations around race, struggle with your own privilege, struggle with the problem of evil, struggle with your personal mental health, struggle to live in community with others.Divinity school provided a safe space for me to wrestle with difficult questions and experiences that other communities simply don’t really allow.
- The ability to show up. Divinity school has showed me that much of growing as a person is showing up to the table. Showing up to worship. Showing up to a conversation with a friend. Showing up to class (which I admittedly struggled with at times!)It is easy to avoid the journey of showing up. But divinity school is less about academic performance and the attainment of knowledge as it is about showing up to God’s presence wherever you might find it—in the coffee you rushed to get before class or in the chapel service that moved you towards a new understanding of grace. Showing up, being present, and giving of your authentic self are vocational skills that cannot be quantified.
- The gift of community through friendship. Divinity school provided me a place to make deep, lasting friendships in which we hold one another in love and grace. This extends to the wider community of Wake Div—which is an imperfect, yet holy attempt at the beloved community. What a gift!
These are a few gifts I have received from my M.Div. experience. What does your soul yearn for? Where do you feel God is leading you? Be brave enough to follow that soul-gut-feeling and embrace the ride along the way.
Jenna Sullivan is a former CBF Vestal Scholar and graduate of Wake Forest School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, N.C.