How has God formed me during my time at CTS? Before I answer, I have to admit that I don’t think about this question as often as I should. Throughout my time at CTS, I’ve been focused on my own work and effort. After all, if I’m working to become a “master of divinity” (doesn’t it sound a bit pretentious when you think about it?), I need to be careful to do everything I can to make myself better, wiser, and more knowledgeable.
Earlier this semester, one of my uncles sent me birthday wishes with a simple reminder: “God is more interested in who you are becoming than in what you do.” I’m sure the quote isn’t perfect, but it struck me when I first read it, and the idea has resurfaced in my mind every so often since then. I spend so much time thinking and worrying and even obsessing over the little things I do that I rarely stop to consider the larger picture of who God is shaping me to be. When I do stop, a couple of things from my seminary experience come to mind.
While I’ve been at CTS, God has been teaching me about my dependence on Him. Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about becoming holy; about living the way that God wants me to live. I find that when I’m honest with myself, I’m not nearly as Christ-like as I’d like to be. I think I should have progressed farther by now, but so often my best intentions fall short. A few weeks ago, I realized something that had never occurred to me before: sanctification is also a gift of God. Certainly that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to imitate Christ, but it works wonders in easing my discomfort. I may be a long ways from truly being like Jesus, but God is actively helping me along through the work of the Holy Spirit. I will stumble and fall, but God’s purposes never fail. When I take a longer look, I can see this sanctification at work: God has made me more humble by helping me wrestle with the weaknesses of my positions and the strengths of others, and by helping me learn from the wisdom of my classmates in handling difficult situations. God has made me more empathic by giving me opportunities to listen to the struggles and joys of international students adjusting to life in the U.S., of female students who feel ostracized because of their gender, and of others who face challenges that I have not faced here.
God has also been teaching me about His faithfulness. Between my first and second years here, my wife, Tess, poured much time and energy into looking for a full-time teaching job. As months went by without an offer, the strain of the search began to wear on both of us. I began to relate to the psalmists who cry out to God with their requests and wonder why God doesn’t seem to be answering; yet ultimately, still trusting that God will come through. In October of my second year, God had things worked out for Tess to get an unexpected interview on a day she had off, and that interview led to a full-time job with Head Start. Though God’s timing wasn’t ours, He was still faithful and good to us.
God’s faithfulness was clear again to me during J-term my second year when I visited Angola prison. I had been feeling burned out and a bit disconnected after the fall semester, but I was excited about the trip after hearing so many amazing stories of God’s work at the prison. So I came in expecting to see God at work, and God revealed Himself time and time again in the inmates I met and worshiped with. They told me how God had transformed them through their time in prison and through its seminary program, and pointed to how God had blessed them through our own J-term group. Through that trip God renewed my energy, and God gave me a new sense of connection with my fellow CTS students.
As I face the uncertainty of life after graduation and the anxiety of searching for a job, I am reminded again of how dependent I am on God. At the same time, I remember God’s faithfulness to me in the past, and so I have hope, expecting that God will indeed take care of me. Throughout my time at CTS, God has been teaching me to trust Him more deeply. I pray that my fellow students will also know that trust and experience the joy of finding God already at work.
Brian is a graduating M.Div. student
at Calvin Seminary.