In honor of International Women’s Day, I have a confession to make. I’ve started a second master’s degree—this time a Master of Divinity, called an MDiv for short, at Princeton Theological Seminary.
It happened so fast and my plans for my three years in Philadelphia changed so quickly that I became a little embarrassed. What about my stalwart plans to write fiction full time in Philly?
One of my problems is I don’t like to change my mind or my plans. This desire was so strong that in my junior year of high school I refused to go back to the small school I’d attended for three years simply because I had already said goodbye and that I wouldn’t be coming back. My pride was so great I couldn’t change my stated plan, thus ending up at a different school for a semester.
Another reason I’m a little reticent to share about my new seminary plans is that I’m too afraid of other people’s and my own judgment. Non-religious family and friends are thrilled about this new endeavor (perhaps because it’s a prestigious school?). Progressive or mainline Christians are excited for me. Conservative Christian family and friends are a bit concerned for me. I’m afraid others think that I’m attending a “too liberal” seminary or that I don’t need a second three-year degree. I’m afraid I can’t explain well why I’m doing this degree and what I plan on getting out of it. (Academic preparation for a doctorate in theology and the arts or sociology of religion, yes, but what else?) I’m afraid that I’m not using my MFA sufficiently and that I should learn to be content with teaching composition and writing fiction.
I do want to write fiction. I do want to teach.
But I also want to be a theologian. One of my favorite theologians, N.T. Wright, writes in The New Testament and the People of God: “knowledge can be a form of redeeming stewardship” and a “form of love” (45 italics in original). In the last year and a half, I’ve read a dozen or more theological books, but I know I’m missing important ideas and how to connect them.
And, I also want to learn how to preach. I want to learn Greek—and maybe Hebrew. (Although, I’m rather scared of the languages!) I want to research gender and the arts in the Church. I want to explore new areas that I never thought I would or could before—sociology of religion, perhaps. I possibly want to explore some level of ordination.
And it’s good, but scary to admit all this—especially the last element, as people I love and respect disagree with me on different levels of women’s ordination. I want to serve God with all my gifts and talents—both ones known to me now and ones that I might develop. Christ’s Kingdom is worth changing plans. Christ’s Kingdom is worth my time and my energy. One aspect of my personal calling in the Church is to share in the ongoing redemptive work as a bridge-builder between evangelical and mainline and progressive spheres, especially on the issue of gender equality and the full inclusion and spiritual development of women. I’m already finding opportunities to grow my knowledge in foundational arguments, sources, and leaders so I can faithfully and reasonably convey messages between groups normally dichotomized.
Will I probably still be an academic and fiction writer? Yes. But obedience, for me, at this time, is holding my hoped-for doctorate and idealized academic life in open hands and saying, Lord, your will, not mine be done. And also saying, Thank you, thank you, thank you for this opportunity!
And now, I must return to writing a midterm on Scripture, authority, and the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
More on this new phrase of life to follow. Forgive my irregularity of writing.
And for a bonus for International Women’s Day, here are some great essays or blogs I’ve recently read:
Women in Theology: a ridiculously smart group of women in doctoral programs in theology, but not too academic of writing
My Fear of Feminism and Freedom in the Gospel: One of many great stories at the lovely blog, The Deeper Story