|Statue of James Duke in front of Duke Chapel.
Note the Fall Colors :).
It is the new year and thus the time to celebrate the future by looking at the past. It seems as I talk to my other friends at Duke and hear their perspectives on their experience that we are all on the same stretch of road, but all having different views. Since it has been October since my last post, I have some catching up to do.
I remember coming to Duke and having heard the refrain of how much a religion major would help me to succeed. Having talked to other students with a variety of majors and hearing how well or not well they fared, I would be tempted to both agree and disagree. Florida Southern was very historical critical in its approach, teaching me how to analyze a text in its parts and see how it fits together in its context. Duke is very literary and looks at the text as a whole and attempts to determine how it fits into our context. These are two completely different approaches, and I think that because of FSC when I graduate, I will have the best of both worlds and a more complete understanding of how to look at scripture. The other thing that helped initially was having an understanding of the vocabulary of theology. This helped me to be able to jump into conversations faster than my peers who waded in slowly. Despite this initial disparity, by the end of the semester I feel like we were all in the deep end together trying our best to keep our heads above water. Seminary is hard.
This is not something which should even be surprising. Duke is a great school, with a well deserved academic reputation, the assumption is that it should be tough. And yet, as I was pulling my hair trying to determine how I was going to get through all of the end of the year papers and exam prep, I was as surprised as anyone how hard it really was. But it is a good hard. Paul tells us that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us” (Rom 5:3-5). I think that this certainly proved to be my experience. Our Old Testament final was most certainly my most difficult. We were given a study guide later than many people wanted, and the exam had no options, and very complicated in-depth questions that required a creative synthesis of information from the entire semester. One of my roommates and I were studying for it the night before and at our wits end. How could we process all this information! And then we had a break through. It was a little verse in the book of Ruth which sparked a revelation for both of us that we both thought was brilliant. We got so excited that my other roommate could hear us across the apartment. It was a good moment. Out of that experience I realized how grateful I was to our professor. Sure the exam was hard, but we were in grad school. Where my two other exams were tough, our professors had held our hand through the whole process. Dr. Portier-Young did not. She assumed that we were smart and deserved to be there and gave us an exam which forced us to prove that to her. And we did. I think that is what seminary has taught me. Sure, my religion background gives me different questions, and a different perspective, but graduate school is a place to ask different, harder questions, and to gain a different, more developed perspective. Next semester is going to be tough. I have three core classes and a seminar where the readings will bring me from Homer to Aristotle to modern times. It will not be easy. But at the end I will have gotten through it, and I will have learned something, and I will hopefully be able to look back and see the character and hope which resulted.
I hope that this semester I will be able to be more attentive to this blog. Personal, devotional time is a tough thing to find in the midst of required reading, but I enjoy this process and hope to be more attentive to my experiences in the semester to come.