Here are a few of the things I learned about while studying theology.
I knew Mim was wonderful before studying theology, but now I know it even more. It has been great to spend more time at home than was possible in my old job, but she has still borne by far the greater part of the workload at home. Mim has consistently encouraged me in my study and Christian devotion all the way through the course.
I've also learnt that having too much access to my work at home isn't always ideal, and my plan is to have my theology books in my office rather than in my study at home. Of course, pastoral work necessarily impinges on home and family life, but I realise that I have to carefully manage the overlap. Working in my old job, while it was more difficult in many ways, did at least have relatively clear boundaries which study and pastoral work lack.
My teachers and friends
My teachers did a truly excellent job of teaching me, as did my friends throughout the course. With both teachers and friends I'm thankful that I had not only a source of knowledge, but models of how to live as faithful Christians. They have all helped me to draw the connections between the content of what I've studied and its application to my own life and to serving God in the church.
I have received many kind comments over the last day, for which I'm very thankful. But I think that one of the most valuable lessons I learnt during my course was from failure. My first Hebrew test was such a colossal disaster that my teacher (the excellent James Robson) didn't give me a mark: instead, I was encouraged to "Keep persevering. If you need help, please ask." Most of my paperwork from my course has been discarded, but I have kept that test paper.
It reminds me of teachers like James who have encouraged me even when my work didn't look promising, and it reminds me that what I've learnt is a gift from God.
This may surprise some of my friends, but studying theology can sometimes bring people to seriously question God. The complexities that become evident in the Christian faith when it is studied carefully can make it seem a rather doubtful idea.
But while studying theology has challenged my thinking, it has been a time where my trust in God and in the authenticity of the Bible has grown. This is especially true of the Old Testament, where having the time to study (and an excellent teacher) has given me a new love not only for the wonderful literary craft of the Hebrew Bible but for God as he is revealed in it.
Taken as a whole, the Christian explanation of the world still makes far more sense to me than the alternatives. I find the Christian hope and message compelling, and I am thankful that my course has opened windows into the complexities of the faith—which, after all, has been studying for millennia—while reaffirming that Jesus is the one I want to call people to follow.
My hope is that I can follow that same Jesus faithfully in my work as a pastor for the rest of my life.