One of the first questions people ask me when they meet me is, "Why did you move out to Berkeley? Are you attending CalBerkeley?"
Before I answer, my heart gives a little sigh. It is as if my soul is saying, "Alright, here comes the first test." What will this person think once I tell them that I am here to attend a Lutheran seminary? That I will be spending four years of my life studying theology and pastoral care and Lutheran traditions? Whenever I tell people this, I feel like I want to tack on, "But I'm not crazy!"
I can imagine you readers out there might think, "Stick to your guns, Kaitlin! Be proud of how far you have come!" I am very proud of who I am, where I am, and what I am doing with my life--but how far can I really go whilst in a casual conversation to explain that society's stereotype of a Christian is very far from who I am as a Lutheran?
This is not something only seminarians struggle with. How can you get across a message of love, justice, and grace when there is so much hate surrounding the idea of Christianity in our culture? I think I might be answering my question as I write this, because the reason I am going to seminary is so that as a religious leader, I can continue to provide compassion, intellect, and grace for people who have not found it before in a religious context.
In short, what I want to say to each person that asks me about where I am in life is, " I attend seminary. I am in training to become a pastor/chaplain. I can get married and (gasp!) have sex. I can drink alcohol. I am a person who might stay up too late, make mistakes, make dirty jokes, and dance ridiculously. I am compassionate and want to support people when they are at their lowest moments. I am logical and enjoy questioning the things that I believe, in order to gain a deeper perspective. I want to hear your opinion on spirituality and religion, especially if you do not believe anything, because you still have that hunger to belong to something. To believe in something. I hope you find meaning in your lifetime; any meaning. I have no agenda but to support people in their struggles with mortality and spirituality."
Think that is too much of a mouthful to say to a stranger you've just met?