A Middle Aged Woman Goes To Seminary

I lay in bed in the wee hours of the morning nervously pondering what I’d just done the day before. I had just finished my application to seminary, to go back to school after almost thirty years. In the past thirty years I’d identified myself as a professional clarinetist, a wife and a homeschooling mother. In the past five or six years, I’d been cleaning other people’s houses for a little extra income. Now, with one click, I was embarking on a new identity: seminary student. Would I be able to do this?

For sure, reading and studying the Bible hasn’t been foreign to me these past thirty years. A common thread running through all these years has been a growing and deepening desire to know and understand the Bible accompanied more recently by a passion to know how to teach it. I remember in the early 90s, as a new Christian at Northwestern University, going with my friend Jen to the bookstore at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. After graduating NU, she had become a student there. She was also my small group leader. I had admired and picked through the Christian books on her shelf but this experience was different. These were serious theology books. But instead of being intimidated I was excited. For some reason I was drawn to buy a book edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem – Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This was the beginning of a growing passion for theology. Over the next decade I picked my way through this book and along the way my own theological library grew. I devoured books by John Piper and discovered the Puritans. My yearly Christmas list became littered with requests for systematic theologies and commentaries.

About seven or eight years ago, I started teaching Bible study to the women at my church and slowly learned the importance of loving them as much as I love the Word. In 2020, I launched a podcast and embarked on writing my own Bible studies. But then a cancer diagnosis came in 2021. My life suddenly became smaller as I detoured into a cul-de-sac of cancer treatments – chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. It wasn’t possible for me to keep cleaning houses.

When I came to the end of cancer treatment a couple months ago, I wondered what was next for me. Would I go back to house cleaning? Despite the strenuous nature of the job, I did enjoy it, but there were also times, usually during the meditative, and often prayer filled, push and pull of vacuuming, when I’d be overcome by a particular yearning. A yearning to do more with the gifts God had given me. But what did that look like? Was this a call to ministry? I had no idea. I could only pause as I wiped the toothpaste off a mirror or scrubbed a stovetop and offer up those yearnings and those desires to the Lord, hoping and trusting that he would make my path clearer.

A few months ago I was talking with a new friend and found out she had gone to seminary. She’s a fifth grade teacher at a local Christian school. I was impressed and intrigued by her accomplishment and told her I had thought about going to seminary myself. She immediately encouraged me to pursue it. Really? Was this the right time? I decided to ask more questions that led to conversations with other women who’d gone to seminary. They too encouraged me to pursue this path. I then posed this question to my pastor: What would it look like for a layperson like myself to feel called to seminary or ministry? How was I to know where God was leading me? After hearing about my interests and past experience, he also encouraged me to research seminary options and degree programs. Was my path getting clearer?

Perhaps my growing and deepening interest in Bible study and theology over the past thirty years was leading me to this. I wasn’t sure if my ever increasing passion to help women understand their Bibles was a specific call to ministry, but if God was calling me to serve him more, didn’t it make sense to become better equipped? Wasn’t seminary the next probable step? As I researched various degree programs, visited a couple places, talked to more people, and even sat in on some real classes, my excitement only grew.

Fast forward to today. I am officially a seminary student at Reformed Theological Seminary pursuing a Master’s of Divinity. Last year at this time I had just started 16 rounds of chemotherapy for breast cancer. Now I find myself nearing the proverbial bend in the road that I’d been squinting and wondering at for years. I won’t be wiping toothpaste off mirrors anymore, at least not other people’s mirrors.

But I still worried about what I’d gotten myself into. After reading various syllabi and reading lists I would wake in the middle of the night, wondering whether I was capable of all this study, all this reading, of writing research papers. What about Greek and Hebrew?

I’ve decided to start small, only registering for two classes, and one of those requires a lot less work than the other. Even though classes don’t start until the end of January, I’ve already ordered the required books. I was anxious to get ahead. But as I cracked these books open, I felt nervous to start. Would I understand them? Was I in over my head here? I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. Some of what I’ve read has been over my head. But most of it hasn’t. Most of it has been fascinating and eye opening. I’m eager to learn more. To go deeper. To see how I can translate deeper theological truths to women who will never go to seminary.

As I opened the first book, a book on how Paul speaks of union with Christ, I was arrested by this verse quoted by the author – “Apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

This is just what I needed to hear at the beginning of this new journey. Truly, apart from Christ, I can do nothing. However long it takes me to get this degree (five, six, seven years?) I’ll need to lean on him more and more. Going to seminary is not a mere intellectual exercise. I know it will be a humbling experience and that’s good! I am anticipating that the deeper I go, the greater discoveries I’ll find, discoveries about God and myself. I’m looking forward to being stretched and challenged in ways I’ve never been, and along the way I pray that the Lord will equip me for greater service to him and his church. As I approach this new bend in the road of my life, I don’t have to be afraid. As David says in Psalm 138: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me…”

I plan to write regularly about my seminary experience. I hope you’ll follow along.

One thought on “A Middle Aged Woman Goes To Seminary

  1. God has gifted you in so many ways and this is the next adventure! I was so happy when I heard your news!!!!! It is a step in faith, but so right for you! God’s timing is perfect and I look forward to this journey with you! Praying Phil.4:4-7 for you!
    Rejoice!

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