Monday, April 20, 2009

We Will Know It When We See It

For the last seven months, I have been immersed in a journey toward graduate school. Ever since the cloudiness cleared and this step emerged as the next one for me to take, I’ve been spending a lot of my time visiting schools, preparing applications, writing essays and searching for scholarship funding.

The task often seemed overwhelming, and there were moments when I thought I’d drown in the sea of possibilities – so many schools, so little time. Sometimes I wondered if I’d ever be able to figure out where I should study.

So the road trips began. I visited Duke Divinity School, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Candler School of Theology at Emory University and Columbia Seminary, an almost-next-door neighbor to Emory in Decatur. The mail brought catalogs from other institutions in the Northeast, New England and even California. Each one carried a mixture of tantalizing courses and traumatizing tuition costs. Yet I kept remembering the people who assured me that there was money out there to help pay for seminary education.

It had been clear to me from the beginning that this path would not ultimately lead to ordination into the ministry but would more likely lead to a career teaching religion or theology. For that reason, I did not feel limited to the schools in the Lutheran tradition, my religious heritage.

One’s faith heritage is an interesting thing. I was baptized in the Lutheran church, and spent much of my life there. Since moving to Habersham county, I’ve been worshiping in a wonderful Presbyterian church where I have been nurtured well. Yet when I returned to my Marietta church for a long-time member’s memorial service, I realized how much I’d missed that Lutheran liturgy. It’s funny how seeds planted so young in life grow trees with strong roots that keep one planted in a particular place even into adulthood.

I applied to a seminary where I’d discovered there was a Jungian psychoanalyst on faculty (an area of study that I’ve enjoyed on my own over the years) at a moment of panic when I worried that limiting my applications to schools in the southeast might have been a mistake. When that school accepted me but offered no merit scholarships, a dear friend suggested I give the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago a closer look, as they might be able to offer more funds.

A little over a week ago, I got on a plane to Chicago, planning to visit two seminaries there. Prior to this trip to the Midwest, I’d not yet had a strong sense of pull to any one school. I’d connected very strongly with a professor at Vanderbilt and recognized that I could get an excellent education there or at Candler, both places to which I’d been accepted. But I found it curious that I’d not yet come away from any school with the feeling that it was the place I should go. But as soon as I walked into the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, I had this sense of coming home.

In his poem “Little Gidding,” T. S. Eliot wrote “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Yes, this school was a place I knew – I knew this way of worshiping, I knew these friendly people, I knew that this light coming in the big windows was glorious and I knew the feeling of community here was something I would treasure.

Though nothing is yet written in stone, I have a strong feeling that I will be moving to Chicago this summer. It looks like it’s time for the country mouse to become a city mouse once again.