The Tractor

I told Bobby yesterday, that people go to seminary to get the kind of life we have. We DO have a life of ministry. Bobby’s job IS to read the Bible and pastor people in whatever way he wants. We have money to suit us in whatever way we dream in ministry. We have such an easy, easy, thriving ministry. We have a comfortable ministry. We have a ministry that gives us the great divine pleasures of church while simultaneously giving us some great treasures on earth. Some people might say, “You have arrived! You have attained a perfect, utopian ministry!”

Maybe my claim a second ago though, “We have such easy easy thriving ministry,” maybe we actually just have easy easy…. ministry. Maybe our ministry isn’t as thriveful as we think. Maybe our earthly pleasures are limiting our ministry pleasures. Maybe that’s what God has been guiding Bobby toward all these 10, 12, 15+ years. 

Seminary to most people is a means to get to an end. Most people I hear, talk about seminary as point A to get to point B which leads to their calling of point Z. It’s just part of the process, part of what they gotta do, to go where they gotta go. 

So why are we different? Why is seminary not just a point to get to the real point? 

Honestly, I don’t know. It feels funny to get called to seminary I guess. Most people get called to something else. They know where they are heading and they know the path God is laying out for them. You know, the people who are called to be a pastor, called to be a missionary, called to be a counselor, but called to… seminary? It seems strange to us, but also strangely not strange at all. We know there is life AFTER seminary, but somehow that doesn’t seem like the point. The point seems like seminary?

And maybe that’s all God is wanting us to do. Just do the next thing. And that next thing is seminary. End of point.

Maybe the future after seminary is too extreme, too scary to show us now? Maybe we need some more sanctification and maturing before God reveals that to us. Or maybe there is something in seminary itself that will keep us in the academia world. Maybe we somehow, in some way or another, truly never leave seminary? The “maybes” and the “afters” could go on and on.

But the point is, we believe God is calling us. And the call seems to be seminary, away from this seemingly utopian ministry we have here.

And truly, God could have pulled a Job on us. He could have stripped away every last blessing in a sudden, painful, intensely catastrophic way. But he’s not. He didn’t. Instead, he has been graciously forming Bobby and I, for the past 10 years. He has led us like tender sheep. He has been building us like a slow building project, one brick at a time.

One. Little. Brick. At. A. Time.

And now, we are here. And it’s as if God is declaring, “Choose the path to me. You’re ready! You’re all built up, it’s time to go!” He’s not ripping our life away, he’s asking us to give our life away. Oh how kind God is I can hardly stand it. Oh how good God is to so gently- and I mean so gently– lead us to himself. 

And as I think of the past 8 months particularly, the start of 2020, how God almost did a warp speed preparation on us. Some intense, hard-core, boot camp before he called us to active duty: In 2020 we have had all our best friends move away, a harsh church conflict, the pandemic’s forceful slowing down of life, Bobby’s identity crisis, our staycation, my own personal “psycho wife” crisis, the “I’m done with having babies for a long time!” conclusion, our mutual theology obsession, racial questions and dissatisfaction, a longing to listen to people, and a deep craving to talk about Jesus and the Bible every chance we get.

And, it’s interesting how almost every morning, Bobby has woken up and doubted. And it dawned on me today, I haven’t doubted once. I’ve been scarred, sad, surreal, counting the costs, and so forth.

But doubting?

No.

Well, why?

I’d like to say because I’m such an awesome Christian and trust Jesus and am faithful and all that. But no, I wish that was it (although I obviously do trust Jesus and desire to be faithful!). But I think I’d describe it like this:

Let’s say there’s a farmer who tends his garden with a shovel and a hoe. Every time he goes to prepare the field and sow seeds, he knows there is probably a better way. He tries everything in his power to make the planting season more effective, more satisfying, more rich. He tries to invent gadgets and gizmos, and processes and techniques to utilize his farming potential. But nothing suits him like he wants, like he dreams. He tries to settle and be content, but there is an unexplained angst about him. He just knows there’s a better way.

And then, let’s say, that one day, someone tells him about a tractor.

“A tractor?” the farmer thinks. He learns more. He starts dreaming. He tells his wife. He realizes, “A tractor! That’s it!”

But, it’s going to cost him much and he needs to travel far to get it. So the farmer thinks about it. He counts the costs. In one sense, he could just keep on farming with his shovel and hoe. He has done it fine all these years and been, well, just fine. But somehow, he can’t ignore the lure of the tractor. The tractor is costly, it’s going to be a feat to get it, and then he wonders if the tractor is even going to work? What if it doesn’t tend his field like he thought it would? What if it breaks down? What if I can’t drive it? What if it won’t fit in my barn? What if, what if, what if?

But even with all the questions and doubts, there is no escaping the idea. It almost would have been better for no one to have suggested the tractor in the first place, than for him to know about it and reject it. There is a sense that he cannot turn back. The safe ignorance of his shovel and hoe was just that, ignorant bliss. But now, he knows!

NOT pursuing the tractor seems more risky than CHOOSING the tractor. NOT going to get the tractor would produce more doubts, questions, further aches of discontentment, and a happy-but-not-so-happy life with the looming question in his mind, “But what if I had just chosen the tractor?”

I think you see the parallel.

So, sure, now that I think about it, I do have doubts and questions and fears as we continue to talk heavily about seminary. And there is something about seminary being the end that is a little strange. And there are a million things that could stop us dead in our tracts. And we would be fine, happy with this life, if the way to seminary was stopped.

But the more we talk about it, the more we realize that there are doubts on either side. Doubting if we should go but also the doubts if we stayed. And I think we always land on the fact that the doubts of going are canceled out by the doubts of staying. To put it another way: the risk of staying is higher than the risk of going. And, at the end of the day, I think that’s why I don’t really truly doubt.

It seems like God told us about our tractor. It’s time for us to drop our shovel and hoe, and go.

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