Real life doesn’t end on campus, it begins
By Justin Nelson
AS I REFLECT on my years of seminary I think of the amazing three years I have spent here, the brothers and sisters in Christ whom I have met, the families that have become part of our family, and of course the valuable growth from the education I have received here. To be honest, I came into seminary thinking that I knew a lot about the gospel, the Bible, and Christianity. What I have learned is how ignorant and arrogant I really was. This experience has been life-changing, and it has also been the hardest thing I have ever done.
When I was called to seminary, I responded and followed God’s call with rose-colored glasses. I thought of all the time I would spend in God’s Word, the blessing that would come from it, and how happy our family life would be. What I know now is how naïve I was. I was not prepared to face the financial strain the move here would put on my family, the loneliness, the times of mourning with my friends through miscarriages and deaths of loved ones, or the strain on my marriage. I also didn’t think I would have to continue to deal with the habitual sins that I carried with me, thinking that in seminary they would go away. I never thought of these things because I came into seminary thinking that God was going to bless our family so much because we were following His will for our lives.
I am not saying God has not blessed our family—He has in countless ways. But He did not bless us in the way that I thought that we deserved or the way I thought He should have.
Seminary is the hardest thing that I have ever gone through because I was forced to address the reality of the wickedness that lies in my heart and mind. There were many times when I felt that I was so unworthy to be here. You would not believe the thoughts that I would think, my attitude toward the people of God and their service, or the hatred, pride, and unforgiveness I would harbor in my heart. Seminary forced me to look in the mirror and face the ugliness, depravity, and wickedness that I have inside of me and see the sinner I am. However, seminary taught me something else. It taught me that there is no one who is righteous, not even one.
Despite all my wickedness, God loves me and wants me to spend time with Him. He has clothed me in the righteousness of Christ and there is nothing that I can do to win His favor by my works or actions—I am a sinner saved by grace. My faith has grown exponentially in seminary because I was forced to rely on His promises to allow Him to do for me what I cannot do for myself. And God has blessed me more than I could have ever imagined.
My seminary experience can be summed up in James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Seminary has been the hardest thing that I have ever had to endure, but the benefits far outweigh any minor affliction that I faced. I believe it is a privilege and honor to serve the Creator of the universe. I look forward to the years of ministry that He has already laid out before me, because I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Justin Nelson, AFLTS senior, is a member of Faith Free Lutheran, Kalispell, Mont. He lives on campus with his wife, daughter, and two sons.
This article first appeared in Kinship Magazine, Winter 2018 Edition.
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