Ask and You Shall Receive

Maybe. But the asking can be pretty tough.

So, as you know, I went to Seminary last weekend to check it out and see if I really wanted to commit to going there for the rest of my degree or not. Frankly, although I’ve been slowly whittling away at courses on-line for the better part of a year and a half, up to this point, I haven’t felt all that convinced either way. Even more frankly, I really didn’t think last weekend was going to make any difference. I wasn’t expecting to leave the weekend feeling impressed and excited, but when I did leave, I found I kind of was.

Only here’s the thing. I love my job at Now Church, and the last thing I remember feeling pretty sure about God’s having ordained was that job, and I don’t think I’m done there yet. At least, I don’t want to be. So even though I’ve used up my allotment of permitted on-line courses and I have to start commuting to campus in the fall, I’m going to remain a part-time student. The thing about that is, Seminary doesn’t offer any scholarships to part-time students.

Except now, one.

Kind of.

Essentially they’ve spearheaded this program which evidently some other institutions have picked up on, where the student raises a certain amount of money via sponsors and the seminary kicks in a modicum less, and suddenly your year’s tuition is half paid for. (I’m not sure where the rest of the tuition is going to come from in my case, but you can bet I’ve been scouring the internet for available scholarships floating around.) As far as I can tell, Seminary’s never done this for a part-time student before, but I guess it is now open to the likes of me. So I sent in an application and we’ll see what happens.

All the same, I just don’t know. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t raised personal support before. That was hard enough to stomach, but I have astonishing friends and family and when they get behind something, they really get behind something. My working with refugees in London was evidently something they could get behind. But who feels compelled to fund someone else’s higher education? Would I? I’m not really that sure that I would. It seems more noble, right now, to send money to relief work in Japan than to send it to some white chick who seems hellbent on spending thousands of dollars she doesn’t have, to read lots of books and stress herself out.

Even if I could appeal to my amazing friends who sponsored me in London by reminding them that this schooling could ultimately be considered ministry, too, and will better prepare me for ministry in the longterm, there’s a pretty strong chance a lot of them don’t believe that a woman has any business getting a Master of Divinity degree. Just in case she takes it into her head to become a pastor. Which most people who have a similar view of Scripture to mine, think is unScriptural. (Note: I have no desire to become a senior pastor anywhere, but I could see myself on staff at a larger church as a pastor of some subgroup within the church, sometime way down the line. But I don’t think these finer points would make anyone disinclined to see a woman ordained, want to send money so I could potentially get to that point.)

Besides all that, within the last year I briefly dated someone who, in the final analysis, seemed to think all I was after was a handout. (Incidentally, for those of you who know him from my former blog, this was not the Milk Guy. Flawed as that man is–as we all are–you should not think ill of him.) This was patently untrue, but it has made me second-guess a lot of things, including asking for most kinds of assistance. I’m not a big fan of asking for help anyway, and asking for money is just about as awkward and uncomfortable and socially unacceptable as you can possibly get. Okay, I whine about being broke a lot, but I whine about a lot of things a lot. This is not an appealing character trait and is doubtless one I need to work on, but it is not meant to be taken as an oblique “beg.” (This whole post probably looks like an oblique beg, but mostly I’m just processing and hoping that some of you will help me process. Like, if you said, “There’s no way on earth anyone would want to sponsor you to go back to school,” that would be elucidating and helpful.)

Now here I am contemplating a direct “beg,” and the thought makes me decidedly squirmy. It is true that I believe that I am meant to get this degree. I also believe (at least hypothetically) that if I’m not making that up and I really am meant to get the degree, God will have to provide a way for me to do it, because it is furthermore true that I have absolutely no way to do this right now. And I’m trusting that it will not entail loans, because I’m still paying off the ones from the last time I attempted grad school. (That time, incidentally, I never had a sense that I was supposed to go there. It just seemed like the next thing to do.) I think that if I do take out loans, I will likely be paying them off until I die or Jesus comes back, whichever comes first.

So maybe this “loan/support-raising” thing is one way God will use to provide for me to get this education. I don’t know. In theory, I don’t think it’s wrong for people to ask for financial assistance. It may even be biblical. (Ask anyone who’s disenfranchised with “the church” because of “their” pleas for money, and you’ll probably get a disgusted affirmative.)  Plus, I guess you could make the case that people are blessed when they give. Actually, I think that’s true. But I . . . don’t want to be the one to instigate that blessing? Am too proud to ask? Think I’m better than other people who raise sponsors or supporters or investors in both religious and secular fields all the time? Ugh. I don’t know. I just know I’m still squirming.

So, to make us all feel more comfortable, here’s a question I can get behind:

Anyone know of any good scholarships going, for which even a part-time student can apply?

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One thought on “Ask and You Shall Receive

  1. Jen-
    I read this post with a good deal of interest. I’ve been wrestling with feeling called toward ministry and figuring out how to make the transition while still providing for my family. I can’t say that I’ve felt called toward seminary, but I can say I love learning things and I’ve wanted to figure out a way to make seminary work. I’ve done a little homework on the subject but much less than you.
    I don’t have any specific answers to the pragmatic questions you ask.
    But on a more theological level, I know that God has done amazing work in my life. Occasionally he’s done it directly; more often he’s done it through others.
    I know that you know all this…
    But the thing is, I think that when He chooses to work through others, it’s for two reasons. One is maybe that he’s got some work to do on those other people; he wants to build their faith and exercise their genourosity muscles.
    The second is that He wants to remind me that community is important. I think that other people are often part of the solution when I get too one-sided in my relationship directly with God and start to be out-of-touch with the people around me.
    Maybe there’s something else entirely here with you… I just know how it is with me.

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