Well, here I am. A grad student. We’ve had two full weeks of classes now, or is it three? How do you count weeks of school when your classes are on Monday and Wednesday and the first Monday of class was superseded by Labor Day? At any rate, this was the week the famed Practicum began and so I feel that I have now truly entered my experience at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology.
Tonight is a night when I’m feeling great about the world (cheap well drinks with the housemates has only served to elevate the mood I was already in) and so it seemed a good night to write. Had I written Monday you would have heard quite a different story. Which is to say, so far my emotional experience of all of this has been nothing if not up and down, high and low. I’m not really sure how to update you, so I’m just going to ramble for a bit and see what comes out. It’ll be an adventure we’ll go on together (continue at your own risk).
Today I had a small sense of euphoria as I exited the bus in Belltown (the neighborhood where school is located) because I had navigate my whole commute (which is only one simple bus ride, by the way) with no sense of dis-ease and very little (I was going to say “no” and then I remembered this was not quit true) stumbling around. As I stood at the corner of Wall and Western in the slight morning fog (it’s been sunny every single day since I’ve arrived, by the way) I looked down the hill at the ferry crossing the sound and thought to myself, “Wow. I am really here. This is really, really happening.”
I keep having these “pinch me” moments and I know I’ll have finally made Seattle my home when they stop happening. For now though I’m happy to keep waking up to find that this is all real.
Today we started with a particularly interesting (and to me invigorating) class discussion non-violent atonement, followed by a hermeneutics class in which my professor spent the first 20 minutes trying to give all those with ruffled feathers and/or confused minds a bit of pastoral care combined with a lesson in church/theological history. The class in which this alternate (to the current Evangelical paradigm) atonement was discussed is called Interpersonal Foundations. I’m honestly still trying to figure out what the class is all about (guess it’s time to re-read the syllabus once again!), but my sense is that our professor (and thus the school) is attempting to give us a foundational understanding of the nature of humanity and how we fit into God’s world. This being The Seattle School, the perspective is a bit wider than many of my classmates are used to hearing and one that is, naturally, music to my own soul.
Hermeneutics is a class that really excites me, which is partly because I’ve had a new-found interested in reading the Bible as Scripture (see this post) and so I’m looking forward to actually having some formal training on how to actually read. The other reason I’m enjoying the class is that this professor is the kind of person I’d like to grow up to be. He’s incredibly passionate, loves the church, feels perfectly safe thinking outside the box, will drop the incidental cuss word upon occasion (he’s Canadian, after all ;) ), and uses Batman and The Dead Poets Society to talk about reading the Bible. Also he starts class with the ringing of a Tibetan singing bowl. What’s not to love?
Of course, there’s also Dan Allender’s class, Faith, Hope and Love, in which we all sit enraptured in the dark charisma of Dan. This class is being co-taught by a (Canadian, again) theologian who also is a fierce yet grandmotherly woman, which of course I love. I suppose I’ll just have to tell you about our current working definitions of “faith”, “hope”, and “love” sometime. Already it’s pretty profound.
So, as you can tell, I’m enamored with my classes. (Even Interpersonal, which sometimes I’m still suspicious of.) The readings I’m more ambivalent about. Some of them I’ve loved, some of them I’ve waded through, and some of them I’ve hated for their sheer inaccessibility (that means you, Barth!). [Side note, I'm a little worried that my first impression of Barth will be something like my first impression of Steinbeck. Both are considered great writers of their time and both have much to teach me. Both are also traumatic to read when not emotionally or intellectually mature enough to comprehend them.] I’m grateful for my reading group where we come together to discuss the readings each week. Reading group is a way to connect with fellow students, have the mentorship of an “older” student, and have time to interact with the readings in a personal and clarifying way. It adds something to the weekly schedule, but I’m grateful that my group has made the time spent totally worth it.
Well, I suspect that this post is coming off quite positive, which is good because, as I said, this is how I’m feeling over all. But had I written Monday (or Saturday, or Friday, or Thursday) you would have heard from the overwhelmed Sarah instead. This is so much reading! I knew it would be an adjustment, but the trick is not in the knowing but in the doing. I’m going to have to learn how and when to skim. I’m going to have to learn how to get enough out of a reading and then Just Move On! This is not my way and it is a way I must learn.
And then, there’s practicum and papers asking us to reflect on our tragedies. There’s no way of hiding here, and hiding is one of the things I’ve learned to do well. I’m guessing that most of this inner work is not going to be the stuff I’m going to blog flippantly about, but it is work I’ll be doing and it will be hard. Although spending time in therapy is not a requirement for M. Div. students the way it is for counseling students, I’m thinking that it’s still going to be best for me if I see someone to process all of these things with. Whatever I end up doing with my degree, it’s going to require that I become a person who can be truly present with people in their brokenness (not the least of whom will be myself). If I am to do this well I need to be a person who sees myself clearly and who knows how to take good care of myself. For this I need help, and I intend to seek it out.
Ah ha, this has become an incredibly long post. As suspected this blog has turned into the 21st Century version of the mass e-mail. And so I’ll close by saying, I miss all of you who I left at home. I think about you frequently as you are the folks I wish I could be discussing these things with over coffee (or evening prayer). Mostly I feel overwhelmed with things to do every second (except for Wednesday night which feels a bit like Friday since it’s my last day of class for the week, and also the night with a great happy hour at Finn MacCool’s). Because I’m overwhelmed I never pick up the phone and rarely send an email. I hope I find a balance in which staying connected is something I am able to do more, but in the mean time know you are on my mind.
This post has been a lot of words so here’s a promotional video from the school that will give you a visual for where I’ve been spending my time.