Forgive me for a moment as I write to a fairly small group of readers: my fellow seminary wives. Feel free to read along even if you aren’t a seminary wife. Many of these are life lessons whether in seminary or not. But this is a group of women that I hold a lot of love, appreciation, concern, and respect for. There is something unique about this time of life that knits our hearts together.
As we come to the end of our seminary career, I wanted to take a few moments to share some things I’ve learned along the way.
Everyone’s path is different
A seminary career of a couple with no children looks vastly different from that of a family with several children. A family working a full-time job and taking classes on the side looks vastly different than someone working multiple odd jobs around the primary job of classes. Some come in with their way paid. Most have to struggle their way through paying the school bills and keeping food on the table. Some go through seminary quickly. Others slowly.
Whatever your situation, remember that it is unique. It’s easy to look longingly at another family’s situation and wish it were ours. But each family has his own unique challenges and advantages that come with their particular path. We have gone through seminary very quickly. While looking back we would do it this way again, there have been a lot of challenges along the way. It’s been intense and there has been little break, but I have utmost respect for those of you that are still plugging away after years of doing this. It isn’t easy, and I admire your perseverance.
Whatever your situation, avoid comparing your path to someone else. It will only breed discontentment.
If I could give you one single thing to work on during seminary, it is communicating with your husband. Seminary is hard on marriages. Plain and simple. So much so that at the beginning of seminary during the orientation that both husbands and wives were asked to be at, the school administrators took time to warn us about guarding our marriage during this time.
Marriage takes hard work no matter what, but the combination of academic, family, and financial pressures piling on a couple can feel very heavy at times. And there will be times when you feel like you are going to break under the pressure. This is the time to figure out how to communicate with each other again. Whether you thought you had it figured out before or not, you may be going back to the basics on learning to communicate. Do the work. It’s so worth it.
Our first semester we muddled our way through classes, work, and family life including a newborn. Silas was two weeks old when we arrived so to say I was hormonal and exhausted would be an understatement. We were hanging in there, but we weren’t thriving. A little over half way through the semester it all came to a head. A good head. The kind of breakthrough that you regularly need in a healthy, thriving marriage.
The way we communicated and functioned as a couple no longer worked exactly the same now that we were in a new phase of life. It was time to figure it out again. You can be married for years and not have a thriving marriage. Make sure your marriage is thriving. That means relearning how to communicate and work together as a team over and over again. Seminary will put this to the test, but make every effort to not let this single thing be overlooked.
Cultivate your own mind
Don’t let your husband be the only one thriving intellectually and spiritually during this phase of life. While he might be doing the formal education, you need to be cultivating your own mind. The subject matter may vary widely from your husband’s, but keep your mind active and learning.
Not only will it help you thrive as an individual during this time of life, but it will also make your marriage stronger. As your husband is growing and changing as a person, you need to be growing and changing as well. Make time to read, learn, and grow your mind.
God gave you a mind to think, learn, and cultivate. Don’t sit back and watch your husband doing all the learning. Your learning will look different, but go to work and let this be a time that you look back on of intense growth for you personally.
Finally, be strong. Strength comes in many different forms. Don’t forget that. Strength may sometimes take the form of quietly bearing under heavy pressures. But strength may also take the form of looking your husband in the eye and graciously but courageously telling him that the family is breaking and something needs to change.
You will need a lot of grace to walk through this time of life. You will need forbearance. You will need to learn to do without certain conveniences of life. You will need to forgive freely. And you will need to learn to freely and quickly ask for forgiveness.
Being a strong woman requires great wisdom. This is the kind of strength that can only come from seeking God’s wisdom. You will need a lot of strength during these years.
And you will fail.
The first time the words, “If it weren’t for your education dreams, this wouldn’t be a problem” came bitterly out of my mouth I shocked myself. We were in this together. We both believed that this was the good and right choice for our family. How in the world did those words even cross my mouth?
Your own sin will shock you. That’s a good thing. Learn to cling to the cross of our Savior who died for words like mine spilling uncontrollably from my heart and mouth. You will know God’s grace more through your own failures than you have ever experienced before. Repent regularly and freely accept God’s forgiving grace.
God has shown Himself so faithful to me and He will do the same for you. Love your God. Love your man. And let God’s grace cover each day of your seminary career.