With this being my last year in seminary, I knew I wanted to keep going to school to study philosophy. I had two choices: Continue on at a seminary or go to a university to focus on philosophical studies. I did not feel quite ready to go to a Ph.D program at a university due to the fact that I’ve been out of that world for four years, so instead, I applied to the Ph.D program in philosophy here at Southwestern and also at the MA programs at the University of Dallas and the University of Houston, two schools who A) Even had an MA program and B) Had good ones, at least according to some research I did. I almost applied to Texas A&M but was too busy to meet the deadline… and it’s not like I wanted to go there anyway 😉 (Calm down, I know A&M is a good school). As I prayed about it during the semester, I felt that God was convicting me to stay around the area and devote at least another year at the college ministry at Arlington Chinese Church.
In many respects, I wanted to stay due to familiarity, comfort, and the fact that I just cared for the people there. In others, however, I really did NOT want to stay: The Ph.D program is at least four years, so I did not know if it was a good idea to stay just for one year longer at the church. I’d have to figure out something new to do for the next 3-4 years. I also wanted to have that greater academic reputation by going to a university. This is not to say that the education is necessarily better; I know people in the Ph.D program at Southwestern and I know they have to work really hard. That said, to the secular world, a seminary degree is going to be pre-judged as being “lesser” even if it is not true. Part of me wanted that recognition, not only for “prestige” but because of practical reasons of getting into other programs and getting jobs. Still, I felt God was leading me to stay, so I was prepared to, though I awaited the responses from the schools.
I honestly did not expect much from UD or UH since I went to a seminary after college, but recently I got acceptance letters from both of them. I also got one from Southwestern earlier than that. It’s one thing to pray about a decision before you have to make it; it’s another when it’s right on top of you, and I didn’t have much time to make the decision. Also, all of those dreams of teaching and having university degrees came back. As I fasted and prayed, however, I realized how vain my desires were: I cared way too much what the world thought about my education than what God thought. So I prayed that I would be brave enough to follow God where he would lead, despite my desires and reason to go or to stay. I felt a reaffirmation that I was supposed to stay in the area and at ACC, and I was also amused to see how things around me pointed me in that direction: We talked about the importance of college ministry in my Ministry of Education class, one of my old pastors told me succinctly, “Be confident in your call,” etc. I was perfectly prepared to enter Southwestern’s program because I thought that made sense. There was one thing left: A meeting with a philosophy professor here that I have gotten to know.
Yesterday morning, I prayed that I would be willing to follow God in staying, and I prayed that if God really did not want me at Southwestern, then to let my professor say something that would be extremely convincing. In the afternoon, I went to meet him… and he dropped a bomb that the philosophy of religion department was very unstable. He was leaving, the last of what was once a pretty good philosophy department for a seminary. When I first got here, we had four or five philosophy professors with good pedigrees; now, every one of them is gone. I was surprised and a bit annoyed with some of the decisions of the seminary (not making wise ones recently in my opinion, but anyway…), and it became obvious that this would not be the best place for me. I went to the gym, worked out, prayed some more, and thought about it during the day. I even had to teach at our college large group meeting.
I was left with the University of Dallas or Houston. While Houston is perhaps, allegedly, more highly ranked according to some and places students well into Ph.D programs, I heard great things about the University of Dallas and it made sense for me: It was still in the area and it still fulfilled my conviction that I needed to stay in the area. I had no idea how I would pay for it, but I felt some peace because I knew it was the right decision. So I contacted U of H, told them I wasn’t coming, and then told Dallas that I was. It’s odd how much changed in just a few days.
I realized last night and this morning that God had answered my prayers, just not in the way I expected. I recently read this passage and was determined not to just trust my own reasoning, which is what I always do:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. – Prov. 3:5-6
So I prayed that I would just follow him. He closed a door that I asked that he would close if I really wasn’t supposed to be here, and he opened a door that was consistent with the convictions he was giving me all year, convictions he affirmed again and again. Not only that, when I was willing to give up going to a university and all the things here, he led me straight back in that direction. I’m not saying that when we follow God, everything works out well (it often doesn’t), but I think we can have confidence that he will direct us where we can be used. I am still unsure about a lot of things, like finances and all of that, but I’m stepping out in faith that God will provide. After all, if he can provide after I wracked up tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills, tuition is nothing ;).
So I’m leaving this school, but not the church yet. It’s actually pretty exciting now that I think about it, though I am a bit worried that I’m too much of a chill person to diligently do the workload. I’ll just have to learn discipline :). But I’m sure it will be a great opportunity to learn, and I’m looking forward to the next step.