It was a beautiful May morning. There we stood, my classmates and I, as we waited in line to walk into the field house and be awarded our Theology Master’s degrees. We had spent countless hours listening, absorbing, discussing, reading, praying, and writing to earn this degree. We had learned so much. And yet, the sentiment among my friends and I was the same.
We know nothing. We are standing in line to get a degree that gives us a little bit of influence on the subject of God and how He works in the world. This University is effectively telling society that they stand behind our education, and that we have proven ourselves worthy to be called a “master”. And we know absolutely nothing. Praise God.
That moment was so important for me as a future missionary. It reminds me of the enormity of the challenge that we take on in ministry as we walk in life with those God has placed under our care. It also serves as a humility check. No person, whether you have 3 PhDs or a high school diploma, can boast to know it all (or even get close). But that’s part of the beauty of God. He works in ways that are so above my own understanding that I get to discover Him anew every day.
Not long after graduation, I was asked to sub for a 3rd grade R.E. class. The temptation was to feel that I was above this task. I certainly wasn’t going to be discussing Thomas Aquinas or Dietrich von Hildebrand. But as I walked into that class, I prayed and asked God to reveal something new to me about Him through this 3rd grade curriculum. As I look back on that experience, I realize that God was instilling in me a longing for Him that comes with knowing that God reveals Himself to the simple and the small. When I make myself simple and set aside my pride, He has room to work. He shows me glimpses of who He is through even the most modest means, especially when I least expect it. But I need to give Him space to work.
I can’t tell you how many ministry leaders I have met that think they are “done” learning and receiving formation. This isn’t a generational thing: it applies to the Baby Boomers who have been “doing it” for 45 years and the hip, young Millennial who has watched every episode of the Catholicism series. And for some reason, many ministry leaders I have met deeply resist learning from someone else. Our pride tells us that leading in ministry is about teaching, not learning.
Friends, this is not from God!
Pride was the downfall of man, and it is the downfall of the ministry leader. We need to pray and ask the Lord to give us humility in our ministry. This may mean reaching out to someone with more experience or knowledge to mentor us in ministry. This may mean signing up for a diocesan theology class. It might mean picking up a book that stretches you in your abilities. Maybe it means getting a degree, or seeking out a spiritual director. Whatever it is the Lord is calling you to, He desires you to know Him deeply and intimately. We are never “done” in our pursuit of God, nor are we ever meant to be. If our God were completely knowable, He wouldn’t be much of a God.
So join me. Take the plunge, and dive in deep. The Lord is waiting for you to discover Him in places you never imagined. You never know what treasures a 3rd grade R.E. curriculum can hold for your soul.