a child’s ascent as beloved: reflections on my seminary journey

Attending seminary these past two and a half years had ultimately helped me understand grace better. To be able to devote a period in my life to press deeper in knowing this inconceivable God—who had made Himself known in the Person of Jesus Christ: oh, how grateful am I to have been given such an opportunity. For this I give thanks, approaching the Throne as a beloved child basking in Grace.

In commemoration of the end of my seminary journey, I thought it was only fitting that reflections be penned. And to do so on Christmas Day, a time where we are brought to ponder upon the grace of the Word made flesh. What a joyous day it is.

Personally, to finally stand on the other end of the path is to look back in deep gratefulness. Bible school had been a dream. It had been a four-year-long wait, filled with various obstacles (and an emotional roller-coaster ride) in itself. And today I can say that it had become a realized reality—oh how kind had the Lord been in letting me come so far.

expectations

I remember that Tuesday morning when I first landed in LA, and my very first day of seminary the following day—all like it was yesterday. Though starting afresh at an age where I’m so ready for some settling and stability was far from ideal, and the thought of being so far away from home was daunting, deep in my heart harbored a certain assurance: I knew that this was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I had many questions, and was determined to find the answer to it all. I had many passions, and thought that this would be the perfect place of my equipping. I was an eager child all over again—zealous, full of fervor, expectant. I was eager to learn, eager to grow. After all, from here on, I would be studying the Bible daily. And what’s more, I would even be graded for it! Oh what a joy it was indeed!

the reality about myself

Yet as the semesters passed, and as seminary had become a reality that I was living out daily, I had come to realize that my expectation of it all had been all too surreal. Though I was for sure pursuing something that was of my heart’s desire, the past two and a half years had not always been a spiritual high. To see the countless times that I would have to drag myself out of bed to endure the hour and a half drive to school, shove an alarmingly unhealthy amount of coffee down my throat to remain focused (and awake) in my three-hour lectures, only to come home to more readings and assignments—I have come to realize that I do not love the Word enough.

I do not have a hunger for The Truth of God as much as I would like to admit. There were far too many doctrines that I had been all too ignorant about, the deep things of God that did not affect me one bit. There were far too many times when theology would make sense in my head, but that they did not resonate in my heart well. And so those were times when I would instead have to pray, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

Frankly told, today I still do not have everything figured out. There are still far too many things where I have yet to take a stand on. Seminary had, in fact, made me realize how little I know of God, and how there are still a great many things that I have yet to understand.

the reality about God

One of the biggest misconception that I think many have (myself included) is that as though seminary is enough to uncover the inconceivable God. But the reality is that God is so much more than we can ever come to comprehend. The definition of “God” in itself as a word is that which transcends. And oh, how are we so arrogant to ever think that we would have Him figured out.

grace and those graced: the descent of God, the ascent of man

Yet at the very heart of our Christian belief is that this inconceivable God had made Himself known in the Person of Jesus Christ. It is this very reason that we may now embark on this journey of knowing God. That we only seek Him for He had first found us. This is indeed the Great Paradox by which we stand to testify of the Risen Lord.

One of my favorite passages that had penetrated so deep in my heart had been 2 Corinthians 3, where Paul speaks of us as having “unveiled faces,” to behold the glory of the Lord. It is this gracious act of God who unveils our faces that we may now come and behold His glory. That we may even come to look at the cross as our salvation is a miracle in itself. The cross is, in fact, humiliating—foolishness. It is a doctrine that cannot be understood by the eyes of the world. Yet to those whom God had unveiled, whom He had graced, the cross is glorious, indeed.

It is in the humble descent of the Almighty Lord of All, as a baby in a manger, that we have been called in this ascent—an ascent to come and know Him.

It is therefore in the humble descent of the Almighty Lord of All, as a baby in a manger, that we have been called in this ascent—an ascent to come and know Him. Be it through our personal daily study, our community groups, or even if we decide on dedicating a portion of our lives to dig deeper into His Word—may we never neglect this ascent. May we never neglect this privilege that we have freely been given to come and know the Unknowable.

the cloud of witnesses

One of the most valuable things at seminary that I had been given is the privilege to learn from those who have gone before me, who have devoted their lives to the study of the Word. To sit under teachers who had walked ahead, but are nonetheless still on the journey themselves, is both an honor, and a means of being humbled.

Though I may be the quiet and shy type in class, I have come to love my professors as my spiritual fathers—people whom I will always cherish for the rest of my life, and will see again in eternity! I am thankful for their passion to teach, their love for their students, the grace that they continuously extend, and most of all, the example that they live out.

Consequently, one of the subjects that I have grown such a deep love for is church history—not as being separate from Scripture, but to see the continuity in which God had written all of history. From the Old to the New Testament, and all throughout the history of the church, until today—He is the same God who had engraved all things to be, and who had always ruled over all. There are just so many things we can learn from our Church Fathers, and I pray that if you ever have the opportunity to read Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Calvin, Charnock’s works—please do.

It had been so humbling to read their works and see the richness of their thoughts. And to be reminded that they had no technology back then to do the research that we can do in the click of a button. Oh, 21st Century Christians, how complacent are we!

the parts of the Body

As we have been graced with witnesses through all time (from the Old and New Testaments and throughout Church History), likewise, what I have come to be so deeply grateful for is the Church. As someone who had been born at such a time where consumerism is rampant, I believe that we have all come to neglect the Church. There has been too much emphasis placed on “personal salvation,” that we forget why we gather weekly, and why we commit as a member of a particular church community.

One of the graces I’ve also been given through this season had been the gift of experiencing Church as a Family. Being at seminary, surrounded by other theologians, I thought it was enough for my personal spiritual growth. Yet it was not so. Committing to a local church enabled me to live out what I had learnt at seminary—I had to love those different than myself, and likewise find myself pleasantly surprised (and deeply humbled) as I learn to be embraced by those I have come to know as family.

Living amongst other believers who did not get the same amount of spoon-feeding through seminary as myself, I am amazed by their zeal, and unamused by my lack thereof. I am encouraged by their selflessness, and appalled by my own selfishness. I am stretched to learn to accept other parts of the Body of Christ—those who perhaps functioned differently than myself.

realizing my adoption into His family

I have come to understand that when I have been adopted as a child of God, through the blood of Christ at the cross—I have now been adopted into a family. I am not an only child. It is not “me and God against the world,” as I had often felt it was. As I call myself a daughter of God, I am now surrounded by brothers and sisters, who had likewise been accepted into the family of God.

It is in this realization that I have grown in love for the Church as a whole, as well as my local church, where the Lord had kindly placed me in, regardless of how dysfunctional it perhaps may be. No church is perfect, and I thank God for that. Because it is a sure reminder that He had redeemed me in my imperfection, and called me His own, even when I am a constant failure.

Through this, I have learnt to love deeper and better—more freely, that is, as I find myself having first been shown this amazing grace. A love that entails no obligations, but compels the beloved to be transformed.

I have learnt to love deeper and better—more freely, that is, as I find myself having first been shown this amazing grace.

an expectant child

And I have been transformed. Looking back two and a half years ago—I am thankful that I had seasons where I had been a child who was willing to abandon all things for the sake of His Kingdom. I am grateful that I had such a childlike faith that was adamant on pursuing the call of God in my life, regardless of all that it would entail. To see myself now, perhaps in actuality, as less famished for the Word as I was before, as more cautious, as more contemplative, as more skeptical—I look back and thank God for that season that He had allowed me to be a child.

But now as I step out of seminary, following my graduation, I had to step out of my infancy. Yet one of the greatest assurances that I have come to embrace so deeply is that the call to Christian maturity is one that brings the believer to deeper dependence. Not an independence that the world would promote, but a greater realization of our brokenness and neediness for the Lord.

Through these years I have seen more ignorance towards God in my own life—yet even in my unbelief, the Lord had been kind to deal with me patiently. I have come to see my slothfulness like never before—yet He would be ever so gracious to me, still. The times when I would be stubborn, He remains gentle—His Word pierces through, both a rebuke and comfort, through the different seasons.

I step out of infancy, now, as an expectant child, all over again—now seeing myself as who I really am, broken and needy, and only expecting Him to be faithful to come and save me.

a child basking in Grace

It is through attending seminary that I have come to, consequently, understand grace better. To be able to devote a period in my life to press deeper in knowing this inconceivable God—who had made Himself known in the Person of Jesus Christ: oh, how grateful am I to have been given such an opportunity. To learn to see grace not merely as an act of giving “unmerited love,” but to truly know Grace as a Person: The Unknowable making Himself known. This Unsearchable God who came in the flesh, so that He may come and seek us out. The God of the universe came by ordinary birth as a babe in a manger. That is the essence of Christmas.

…to learn to see grace not merely as an act of giving “unmerited love,” but to truly know Grace as a Person: …this Unsearchable God who came in the flesh, so that He may come and seek us out.

And He so relentlessly sought me here. In such a place of obscurity, where I am fully devoted to learning and serving the purposes of the Word—these past two and a half years had been such a sweet journey. It had been a time of unlearning and relearning—a humbling season, most certainly.

I have been surprised by joy indeed—something I otherwise would not have identified myself with (I am a melancholic soul). Yet such is not a joy marked by external glee, but an overflow of inner gratefulness and contentment, stemming from a stilled heart of deep-seated trust, as I come as a beloved child basking in Grace.

the King’s child

I am but a child,
Timidly looking to my Father’s throne,
In awe of His greatness
And how good of a King He is;

Thinking, what I want isn’t important;
I can just watch Him work—surely, that will be enough.
For is there not too many people who need His attention?

But then He catches my gaze.
The King smiles at His child,
Walks towards her and holds her tight.

“I know,” He whispers—
And surely, now that was enough.

3 thoughts on “a child’s ascent as beloved: reflections on my seminary journey

  1. Ahhh love this!! Thankful to have been part of your bible school journey! I also wish I could’ve met the “child-like” Jessica in the beginning days of seminary but I am thankful to have met the now wiser, more open and awesome Jessica 🙂 hehehe

    Also, I loved this line: “Yet one of the greatest assurances that I have come to embrace so deeply is that the call to Christian maturity is one that brings the believer to deeper dependence.” Amen. 🙏🙏😉

    Like

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