It is time for a life update from me. Some big, gigantic (yes, big and gigantic), wonderful news came to me this week. Because of said news, my week was both delightful and probably the most emotionally taxing of the semester. This was the week I heard from Duke’s Divinity School about acceptance into their program. Why was this such a big deal you might ask? Let me begin last May…
Last May I returned from Oxford, where there had been much talk amongst the students about the desire to pursue graduate studies in their respective disciplines. My roommates and I certainly had many conversations on the topic. However, the three of us departed Oxford saying that we weren’t, in fact, very interested in pursuing graduate school, at least not immediately. We didn’t know what we would study. We needed some time off before doing more school work. There are so many great jobs out there we could enjoy in the meantime. (I hope you are detecting my retrospective sarcasm )
Needless to say, these thoughts vanished as summer was upon us. I found myself immersed in two Biblical Studies courses, reminding me how much I love learning about and studying Scripture. Perhaps out of a mix of curiosity and boredom, I began to visit the websites of some divinity school my professors had mentioned to me as good options. PTS, Candler, Yale, University of Chicago, Notre Dame, Duke. Finding this to be an incredibly overwhelming process (everything was so new and strange!), I decided to start small, by reading a few articles or book chapters from professors teaching at these schools. I hoped to get a sense for what it would be like to learn there, to study under these particular scholars.
One of the first books I read immediately engaged not only my attention, but also my heart. Entitled The Art of Reading Scripture and co-authored by Richard Hays and Ellen Davis, this book hurtled me into a fascination with the process of Biblical interpretation/hermeneutics. Starting at the beginning, I only intended to read a chapter or two, trying to get a feel for who these scholar’s were, how they understood God, and how they read Scripture. However, I found myself continuing to read, each subsequent chapter causing my eyes to open wider with appreciation and amazement. People read Scripture in this manner? I thought, so refreshed and compelled by what I was reading. At the conclusion of the book, my world had altered slightly. A small shift that began a delightful, excruciating, expensive, and taxing investment that finally culminated this week.
From the reading of this book, I began looking into Duke with great interest, though I was quite skeptical about my chances of actually being admitted. I am coming from a no-name school, I haven’t done anything very remarkable yet, and I really did not have that much vision for why I wanted to pursue graduate studies anyway. Why would they let me in their prestigious and wonderful school?
In all hopefulness, I began the process anyway. I spent the summer months studying furiously for the GRE, which helped me little on the math and greatly on the essay. But that is beside the point. I spent who knows how many hours in the company of my Mac, looking through each page on the website of various schools, reading details about the professors research interests, contemplating the components of various programs. And praying obsessively about whether I should actually do this or not.
Toward the end of the summer, I decide that since just applying is not an actual commitment, it can’t hurt to at least apply. Give it a shot. If they tell me no, then at least I tried. So, I begin the process of applying. As I start to formulate essays, request letters of recommendation and contemplate why I want to pursue and M.Div/ M.T.S. and these schools, my whole person slowly became intertwined in the dream of graduate school. As I invested more tangibly, and especially in writing my essays, it became clear to me that this step makes so much sense out of who I am. It seemed to be a very clear way for me submit who I am to the Lord, that He might use my interests, talents, and personality to expand His kingdom and draw others to Himself. Needless to say, by the end of September, I was pretty attached to this idea.
But it’s hard and terrifying somedays to be attached to a future that you yourself cannot control. I couldn’t force them to let me into their programs. I have very little power really. All I can do is submit my application, pray, and wait. So that is what I did. I submitted most of my applications by the end of October, finishing all of them by the end of the first semester. I thought that all of the schools I was applying to had rolling admission. As it turns out, all of them did, expect Duke. I found out in early November that I had been admitted to both Candler and PTS. This was incredibly exciting because I knew that I would have somewhere to go next year. It was only November and my future already seemed set. I pictured myself at PTS and was quite contented with this picture. Delighted even.
However, over Christmas break, this picture was marred a bit for me. I received news that my favorite professor, Dr. Roberts-Gaventa, would be leaving PTS for Baylor. This was very unwelcome news. Great, I thought, is it still worth going to this program? I spent many weeks debating that one. Had it been only Gaventa who left, I think I still could’ve gone to PTS happily. However, weeks later I received news that three other New Testament professors and PTS would also be leaving (essentially the entire NT department). This was much more unsettling. I began growing more and more uncomfortable with attending PTS and placing more and more hope on the prospect of being admitted to Duke, a decision I did not receive until this week.
Because of these various factors, the past three months have been somewhat agonizing. I’ve been waiting for one phone call, one answer, which seemed to hold so much power. Either I will be able to go study under good professors at a great school, as my heart desires, or I could go to a school at which the NT department was in disarray, not knowing what kind of teaching I’d actually find there. The waiting is agonizing. The longing to trust God in the waiting is also agonizing.
However, I think that I am experiencing a zenith of rejoicing this week that I could not have felt so acutely had I not truly felt the pain of waiting. Waiting for months for one phone call. So, what began as I picked up a book at the beginning of last summer has finally culminated, 11 months later, in a much anticipated phone calling telling me yes. Yes, this door is open. Yes, it is good that you walk through it. Yes, you are blessed because God is so very graciously giving you the desires of your heart.
Well, thank you for indulging my incredibly long personal update. As you can likely tell, I’m absolutely thrilled. I still wake up and wonder if it’s quite real. And I am constantly grateful.
Thank you for supporting me, my readers and friends, and rejoicing with me today.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant…for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49)