It’s no secret that Luther Seminary has seen some tough times recently. It’s easy to see the red, the debt and watch significant faculty and staff leave, and think that’s all that there is at Luther. Who would want to go there?
That’s a question I wrestled with during my first year at Luther. Yes, I graduated from a 2-year program, so that would be half my time there! Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but as for my experience at Luther I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I love a good question.
In my first semester I took “Pentateuch” which is a fancy word for the first 5 books of the 60-some books of the Bible. My professor was Terence Fretheim. A classmate lovingly called him Yoda – and it’s true, Dr. Fretheim is a very smart and wise man.
At the time I was livid with resentment and uncertainty. Uncertainty about getting a Master of Divinity pastor-track degree (which I later switched to an MA), uncertain about being in the midwest, uncertain about my capabilities of being a responsible and supportive spouse. Resenting our move because our families were a 26 hour drive away. The winter of 4 feet of snow didn’t help that first year! It was a dark time.
In the midst of this, here came this extremely calm, and surprisingly challenging professor. He made me think, and made me realize that I couldn’t coast through my seminary degree (I was pretty snarky). He was asking hard questions, and my husband, Timothy, and I and our classmates got so into the material that we discovered that we were not only classmates, we were becoming friends (See: Our pal Brigitte). Dr. Fretheim told us that we didn’t have to agree – we needed to sit with each other, and physically open the Bible together and read the Bible together. In the midst of post-2009 sexuality vote in our church, this point was not taken lightly.
Brigitte, Timothy and I sat together in chapel today as we celebrated faculty and staff who were leaving over the next few months. Their names were read and those present went to the front. Interim President Rick Foss invited us to stand and thank them for their service.
He didn’t need to ask me to stand, I would have been among the first to shoot up out of my pew. The applause swelled up in love, in gratitude, among the bittersweet tears and hugs. The hand drums echoed and the Holy Spirit soared.
I’m grateful for the hope Dr. Fretheim and others helped me see hope in that first year. They continue to inspire me as they ask the hard questions and contribute all they are to this world and God’s work in and through it. Sometimes it takes people around us to point out hope, and I’m thankful Dr. Fretheim pointed it out to me.
In the midst of a heavy moment of grief, when did you see a unexpected glimpse of hope? What does hope look like to you?