As thrilled as I am to start this blog, its beginning marks the end of my role as a seminary student. For the last three years I have worked two jobs and attended Theological School full time. Having grown up largely unchurched, a Masters-level education in Theology was never part of my plan. And yet as I began my faith journey in high school, I found myself fascinated by the mystery of God, and the power religion seems to hold over people and society. In college I waded into a river of questions about divinity, justice, tradition and doctrine, and found it refreshing that I always found more questions than answers in my search. And while last Saturday marked the end of an amazing three year adventure, it is not the end of my exploration.
Last Saturday, I walked across a porch, shook several hands, was given an expensive, loan-inducing piece of paper and received my Masters of Divinity; all while being lightly strangled by my new masters hood, a symbol of my academic achievement and the knowledge I now supposedly possess. See, the dress I wore under my robe did not have a button, so I could not clasp the hood into place. During the three hour ceremony, while my unclasped hood dug into my skin, I quietly laughed to myself, noting that historically graduate regalia was likely not meant for women or dresses.
But more than a representation of my achievement or the realities of gender inequality, the hood and its pressure on my neck represented both my time in seminary and the journey I am embarking on. The weight of the hood reminded me of the weight I have endured as both a student and a pastor these last three years. I’m not going to lie, Theological School and its many responsibilities was hard, and this reality wasn’t made easier by my tendency to over-commitment myself and strive for perfection. And though school was a weight I was thankful to carry, as I found community and deep interest in what I was studying, it was still heavy. The hood I wore Saturday not only pointed to this weight I had carried, it also directed me to the weight I will endure as I strive to be an activist, organizer and ally. As I looked to the future, the hood reminded me there is often discomfort in growth, in working with others, and in working for justice, but there is also great reward.
The hood’s grasp on my neck reminded me that my curiosity and search for answers is not over. I am to continue to learn and grow, it is my responsibility. A responsibility further highlighted after the ceremony, when my father-in-law reminded me only 8% of the U.S population holds a Masters degree or higher; meaning I hold an incredible privilege and opportunity I must always be aware of. My education does not absolve me of the need to continue to learn, in fact it means I must be more vigilant in learning from others and the world around me, lest I forget there is knowledge, wisdom and experience that cannot be found in my former classrooms. As the weight of the hood, bore down on my neck and shoulders, it left the imprint of a burden to fight for my voice and knowledge, WITHOUT strangling, resisting or overshadowing the voice, knowledge, wisdom and truth of others; all of which, like my hood, may be uncomfortable at times, but nonetheless, are a gift.
Finally, my hood reminded me to breath. In addition to my need to physically breath, as I peeled the hood from my neck every few minutes, my hood reminded me sometimes I need to peel myself from my work. I must balance my growth, work, and busyness with my need for self-care, fun and breath. While my hood symbolizes my achievements, my burden and my responsibility, it also represents my need to find that which sustains me, gives me peace and enables me to breath deeply all that is hopeful, wonderful and beautiful.
The world of theology is one I never thought I would be in. I never thought I would be pastor or poet, and yet here I am, with a degree and a hood, that is heavy and light all at once. It is a hood that ushers me into this blog and into the world. A world that is beautiful and ugly, healing and hurting, chaotic and strangely ordered. It is a world my hood and I will continue to explore, to serve and to improve, as we humbly wrap ourselves in burden, responsibility and breath.