I can’t see. I feel my heart beat in my jaw. It’s hard to breathe. My mind races, trying to put clues together from what I had seen earlier. A deafening yell interrupts my thoughts, “Deal with the situation!” Suddenly, everything is bright; the bag has been pulled off my head, and my eyes squint as they adjust to the assault of light. I blink, and then it’s dark again. I feel a weight on my chest and hands on my neck. They begin to squeeze.
Of course, that’s what is going on; why wouldn’t it be? I tuck my chin towards the hands tightening on my neck and strike the arms at the joints, giving my throat a moment to, well, breathe. In doing so, I can see the positioning of my legs compared to the red-armoured behemoth sitting on my chest. I position my legs as I had done at least fifty times earlier that day. It’s getting hard to breathe again; I need to move faster. I kick my leg out to the side along the ground, pushing the behemoth’s leg out from under them, throwing them off balance. My other leg launches me to the side, pushing me off the ground and the assailant onto his back. Now on top, I get off and stand up, keeping my eyes on the red-garbed jerk while simultaneously drawing my red pistol from its holster and yelling at the assailant to stay on the ground. My command is met by the same voice from earlier, “All stop!”
The training exercise is over. I reholster my plastic training pistol, reach my arm out to the red-garbed foe, and help him get up. We ask each other if we’re both alright. He says I did good while slapping me on the back with a laugh and a wince.
That was the first of many training scenarios I went through as a young, up-and-coming court security officer almost a decade ago. All meant to put myself and my classmates in the worst-case scenarios. To teach us how to survive the worst so we could handle the rest. It was a long and challenging process.
As someone who is following God’s call to leave that profession behind and step into ministry, I have found myself remembering those long weeks from almost a decade ago. I recall wishing for the training to end. For the tests, drills, marching, and scenarios to be over. Unlike the many movies I had seen, I couldn’t montage my way through this part of my life. No quick cuts to learning how to do things, no Eye of the Tiger blasting in the background for a quick four-minute and five-second summary of all that I learned, and I couldn’t be more grateful. The lessons learned and friendships built during that time are ones I will never forget.
At the start of another academic year, I find myself having to remember that gratefulness for the training. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing this time studying and learning as a barrier; after all, my calling is not to go to seminary but to be a pastor. Traditionally, this is the point where I would then write about how Jesus didn’t start his ministry until he was 30, Moses was a shepherd for 40 years before being called back to Egypt, and for Paul, there was around a decade between his conversion and first missionary journey recorded in Acts. Yes, those are important reminders, but they ultimately focus on an end goal and miss the point.
The point is summarized by Paul in his final letter as he writes these words of instruction and encouragement to Timothy,
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:3, NIV)
Paul’s writing to Timothy is a great reminder that the life that I am stepping into is a life of constant training. My old career trained and equipped me for the worst-case scenarios, but once I learned how to handle those, everything else came into place. This calling, training, and discipling I am undergoing now does not have the same end goal. To be an effective pastor, I have to be constantly learning. Going to the Scriptures for correction, rebuke, training in righteousness, and as the way in which I can become equipped to follow this call. The practices I am learning now in seminary are a way to establish a rhythm of constantly learning what it means to become like Christ – and that excites me!
One of the great joys of being a disciple of Christ is that it is a life of constant learning. Every step, every moment, and every day is filled with learning – it will be continuous. This fact brings me joy because I am not training for the worst but learning the life-long rhythm of what is best. No montages allowed.
 “Apostle Paul’s Timeline – Study Resources”, n.d.
“Apostle Paul’s Timeline – Study Resources.” n.d. Blue Letter Bible. Accessed September 15, 2023. https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/paul/timeline.cfm.