Today marks the last week of my seminary career. Five years is a long time – but at McAfee School of Theology, five years will have never been enough.
When I was little, fourth grade to be exact, I had a bad experience with an educator. My teacher had spent the year trying to help me understand math, getting frustrated with me for not having my math homework done because I didn’t get it and one day it all just became too much for her, I guess, and she took it out on me in front of the whole class.
My math test that day ended in her standing over me telling me to hurry up, and then announcing to me and the rest of the class that she thought I was stupid. Thus, classrooms and educators became the enemy – a necessary evil that I would just have to deal with. I became withdrawn in classroom settings – all through elementary, jr high and high school and even college and much of grad school.
I wanted to contribute to my class discussions – I really did. But I couldn’t ever get past the irrational fear of a repeat of fourth grade – so I kept my mouth shut. I learned a lot, and became excellent at expressing myself through written word and through music (piano and violin).
When I started at McAfee, I knew I’d made a mistake. My first Old Testament class was more than enough proof of that. ” What do you MEAN maybe there was no big fish?” New Testament was no different. “WHAT is a pericope?” I was set for smooth (ish) sailing under the radar, until one day, I knew I’d been found out.
I didn’t belong here.
Dr. Jones asked me to come into his office after Greek class because he wanted to talk to me. I knew I was done for. I sat through the small talk, waiting for fourth grade to strike again, and then he said “well, I just wanted to check in with you. If you ever need any help with anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
I decided to stay, and “tough it out” and little by little, I began to learn to trust professors, engage with classmates, and to sit in a classroom without having an anxiety attack every time.
Now, five years later, I’m getting ready to graduate – to end my time as a student at McAfee – to say goodbye to all those professors, classmates and classrooms that I’ve learned to trust – and I’m not ready.
I’m excited for the future and I am ready to embrace my chaplain residency at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – but I go desperately and ever so gratefully clinging to the things I’ve learned during my time at McAfee.
At McAfee School of Theology, I learned that there are students who will not make fun of you for something you say in class.
At McAfee School of Theology, I learned that there are professors who would walk barefoot through burning coals before even dreaming of making you feel stupid.