Attending Seminary Means Living In a Foreign Land

In Emotional Health by adminmark

When I went to seminary, it entailed a move from Florida to Texas. There was a shift in geography, but there was also a shift in culture-a pretty dramatic shift, as anyone who’s moved to Texas will probably tell you.

I grew up in South Florida. I was a native Floridian, which was pretty unusual. In my 9th grade class of 30 students, for instance, only two of us were actually born in Florida. The rest were transplants. Consequently, there wasn’t much of a unique Floridian cultural identity. Mix the Old South, Yankee transplants, immigrants from Mexico & the islands… it was a mish-mash culture, and not a particular source of pride for any of us.

Then I got to Texas. Sweet Moses, was it different! Texas pride-which I still fail to fully understand-was everywhere.

  • “Everything’s bigger in Texas.”
  • “Everything’s better in Texas.”
  • “Texas is the best.”
  • “I [heart] Texas.”

Everywhere you turned, there was this rampant Texas nationalism. I wasn’t really offended by it… I just didn’t get it. I looked around and thought to myself, “Yeah, this is nice and all, but c’mon, people.”

One of my Texas friends, a 300 pound air conditioning repairman, said to me once, (just imagine the accent):

“I don’t know why anyone would want to live anywhere else but Texas. Everything you want’s right here.”

I asked him, “Have you ever been anywhere else?”

He replied, “Well, I went to Arkansas once.”

Now, this is not meant to be an anti-Texas screed; I actually really enjoyed my time there. My point is that for residential students, moving to seminary means moving. It means, in most cases, a different place with a different culture.

Now the consolation, for many, is that the move is temporary. In most cases, you’re not going to settle down and live there at seminary forever, though I’m sure that happens occasionally.

It was interesting to me to see how people responded to the (temporary) culture shift. There was a significant group of people-usually married-that did not really settle into living in Texas. Most notably, they didn’t make friends while they were there. They seemed to keep all their relationships intentionally superficial.

The attitude was: “I don’t like it here, but I’m living here because I have to. So I’m just going to bide my time for (insert timeline; 2-3 years) until I can go back home where people are (insert attitude: better, normal, smarter, etc.).” .

So this brings me to this word of exhortation: while you’re at living at seminary, live! It may not be home for you, but your real home is in heaven anyway. (Philippians 3:20) Even in your hometown, you should be living as a stranger and an alien (1 Peter 2:11)

The exiles from Jerusalem didn’t enjoy living in Babylon (see for example Psalm 137!), but the command to them in Jeremiah 29 was to settle down, build houses and gardens, start families. In other words, live!

According to the scriptures, God “determines the times set for us and the exact places that we should live.” And he does this, the scriptures say, “so that men will reach out for him and perhaps find him.” I understand that to mean that as an agent of God’s kingdom, wherever I’m living, there are people God sovereignly puts in my relational sphere so I can influence them for His purposes, and vice versa.

So live while you’re at seminary. Settle into the local culture. Do all the things you would do to have a normal life: make friends, join a church, have a ministry.