Today I graduated with my Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, from the Arizona campus. For two and a half years, I took three courses a quarter and studied as much as I could, trying to make the most of the tremendous opportunity before me. My general strategy when it came to my higher education was to get a degree in whatever I would have wanted to study anyway; this worked out well for me in my time at Arizona State studying philosophy, and it worked out tremendously for me during my time here at Fuller. Theology and philosophy are my passions, so naturally I want to continue and get a PhD too.
The graduation ceremony was really like a worship service: some songs, scripture readings, a sermon, communion, etc. It was quite nice. One thing stuck out to me especially as I was singing along with everyone else: all of us are a family. What do I have in common with so many people of so many different backgrounds, of different experience, of different races and ethnicities, of different interests? What could I possibly have in common with them all? Only the most important thing of all: we are all one, a part of the same body of the same Christ, Jesus who is the Savior of the World (1 John 4:14). The feeling that I had of our greater unity in spite of our difference was powerful and moving.
Some of my classmates had a far more difficult time during seminary than I did. One woman was completing her MDiv after five years of study, three of which years she spent battling cancer and various illnesses. But she conquered all that through the power of Jesus, and now she was ready to go and pursue work as a hospital chaplain -- to provide comfort to those suffering just as she was. The father of another friend of mine had recently died, and I noticed that he was crying during the communion. My belief is that his father, even if not present in body, was present and aware in some other way, and was certainly proud of his son (who is now a young father).
I took my mother around to introduce her to my various professors. I know they were only going to say nice things about me, but I also wanted to say something nice about her: namely, that if I ever said anything wise in class, it came from her. I don't know if that's quite always true, but there is certainly no denying the influence that my mother has had on me as regards my spiritual life. She is like a Monica to my Augustine, if you will permit me absurdly comparing myself to him. Of course, I never lived a life of licentiousness and sin like Augustine did, but my mother always prays for me and always bids me: be reconciled to God in everything! This matters more than anything else.
That was the topic of the sermon: be reconciled to God. This is how I understand the whole of the Christian life: a process of being reconciled to God, of being made aware and sure of his kindness towards us, of trusting him more and more, of embracing him and allowing ourselves to be embraced. In a word, being a Christian is going through the process of becoming God's friend. That's what I want for my life; that's what I want people to be able to say about me -- that I was a friend of God.