My first semester here at Asbury Seminary included going to a chapel that our new president, Dr. Ellsworth Kalas, preached. He spoke about the importance of doing more than just academics or trying to get through. He stated, in very bold terms, a statement that has never left me. I remember it because I recount it often and remind myself of its importance. He stated, “Get what got you here.” In those simple five words he conveyed a truth. God brought us all here for different reasons, but whatever calling God had for us to answer, whatever lessons to learn, whatever relationships to grow, God had brought us to this place to get something. He called us there. Dr. Kalas had a reminder: don’t lose focus on the prize. The prize isn’t the degree, but getting whatever got us here.
Those words were encouraging to me at first. They have helped me focus through the years on my time here. But in recent months they have become haunted for me. I can’t stop thinking, “Am I leaving here without getting it? Have I achieved everything I hoped to get? Am I the man that I though I’d be when I came here?” These are honest questions that are important for me to know, but ultimately they are not answers I can give. It takes someone outside of my head to give me these answers. God must answer them for me.
I remember what it was like 4 years ago when I moved here. I was scared about moving 800 miles away from my family and friends and the only place I’d ever lived in Wichita, Kansas to a city I had only visited twice. I was worried, but I knew one thing then that I know now: God had brought me that far and he wasn’t going to leave me there. Life transitions are hard, stressful, and worrisome. There are too many unknowns not to worry a little.
Now 4 years later and 22 trips (including 35,000 miles on my car) later I have come to love Wilmore. This school and city are my second home and I am sad to leave them. But I remember that God brought me this far and God will take me on to the next step. These next steps I take by faith.
But I return to that now haunting phrase from Kr. Kalas. “Get what got you here.” Have I got it? My spiritual life isn’t everything I’d love it to be. I haven’t read all the books I could have. I’m not amazingly brilliant (though there is a good chance that will never happen). Through this past week I have come to realize the answer isn’t as much a quota of books, a GPA, a set list of friends, or a sum of my experiences. Before I came to seminary I was told by some friends, some of them pastors too, that I shouldn’t let seminary ruin me. “Don’t let them turn you away from God. Don’t burn out. Keep your relationship with Christ front and center,” they would say. Seminary hasn’t ruined me, at least not yet. I still have a relationship with Christ, and amazingly I still struggle with the same issues that I did 4 years ago, just in different ways. Education doesn’t solve problems. It just means I can better articulate what’s wrong.
Ultimately, I’ve realized that I’ve got what brought me here. I know it is the ‘Sunday school answer’ but God brought me here, and I leave here with God. I don’t know if I was ever able to “get” God. But I now know what Dr. Kalas meant. I’ve found God in deeper, more amazing, and special ways in these past 4 years than I ever thought possible. This community, these friends, and this place have changed me because they have worshiped beside me, cared for me, and loved me. God’s abiding presence has grown in me. I still have problems and issues. I’m still human.
But God got me here. In the end, God got me.