Saturday I was privileged to celebrate graduation after earning my Doctorate of Ministry degree. It was the culmination of 11 years of theological study through my M.Div and the D.Min programs. I don’t mention this to brag at all (even as I write I feel the need to erase it), but I feel the need at the end of a long journey to reflect some on what I’ve learned. These reflections are by no means all that I have learned, but they do represent part of why I have enjoyed this period of study. I offer them here in the hopes that God can use them for some good.
I serve a God far beyond my understanding. The more I have studied about and tried to understand God, the more I realize God is completely beyond my understanding. I used to think that as I learned I would gain more knowledge and understand God better, however, it hasn’t actually worked that way. While I have learned over the last dozen years, the more I learn the bigger God becomes. With every class and every semester God kept getting bigger and I kept getting smaller. With every new truth I realized I understood God more and at the same time I realized there was so much more to God than I ever imagined and could ever comprehend so that in reality I knew God less. The divine is so much greater than the human. We can never fully understand God.
God cannot be placed in a box. There have been times in history when different religious groups have determined they have figured out how God acts. I grew up in such a tradition. I love my tradition and appreciate how it help shape faith in me. But the more I’ve studied the more I’ve realized God will not be bound by the ways we think God should work. History is full of testimonies of men and women declaring how God has shown up in unexpected ways to act for God’s glory. Sometimes these ways seem strange or mystical. Sometimes they defy comprehension. It is closed minded on our part to believe people who speak of God in this way were just uneducated. God’s power is unlimited, and God can choose to act however God wants to act. God sometimes works in the silence and whisper and at other times God works in the thunder and the storm. While different, God is working in all. God will not be bound by my limited understanding. Expect the unexpected with God.
God is pursuing me with reckless abandon. God is not sitting in Heaven waiting for me to mess up so God can zap me. Neither is God sitting back just hoping that I will someday repent and return to God. God is actively pursuing relationship with me, and with you. God is on mission to restore relationship with me. God’s greatest desire is to redeem and restore what was lost. God created me because God wanted to share love with me, and when I turned away from God, God did not pout but instead began pursuing a restored relationship. God will never stop in this pursuit. Even today, if I turn away, God will pursue me. God will pursue me to the ends of the earth. God won’t force me to follow, but God will pursue me and seek to win my affections. God desires relationship with me even more than I desire relationship with God. It is a reckless pursuit.
I am madly in love with God. I began theological study because I wanted to improve as a minister. While I thought that it might open doors for me in the future, I knew that advanced degrees don’t exactly earn more money in ministry. I wasn’t getting an education to advance my career, I was getting an education to become a better minister. But while my studies began as an intellectual pursuit, they became a spiritual experience. After just a few classes I knew I was sticking with school until I completed my doctorate because of the impact it was having on my life. With each class I fell more in love with God. With each class I became more in awe of a God who loved me and pursued relationship with me even when I would turn my back. With each class I learned to trust God more and more with my life. I am not a perfect Christian, far from it. And my relationship with God, like all relationships, has ups and downs. But I am madly in love with God, and when I speak about faith it comes from a point of very deep convictions.
So, to all those who poured into me over the last decade of my life, professors, family, classmates, and friends, thank you. Thank you for sharing life with me and allowing me the opportunity to learn and grow. I pray that God may use me to bless you in return, or at least to pass it on to someone else, to love as I have been loved, for the Glory of God.