Three years ago I somewhat blindly embarked on a journey. The destination was and still is filled with unknowns. The obstacles were many. The road ahead seemed scary if I allowed myself to dwell on the details for too long. I initially felt in-over-my-head. But God. Don’t you love those two words? Things appear murky and daunting, and we’re unsure of our decision, but then God steps in and reminds us to continue following him down the path. Even if it doesn’t always make sense, he is faithful, and the way ahead seems possible and even bright.

This journey I’m referring to is my seminary journey. Let me be clear. I am not a pastor, nor am I currently even in any position of leadership in a church. I don’t know exactly why I felt the pull to pursue a Master’s of New Testament, but I know I felt the pull so strongly it was irresistible. Without trying to sound over spiritualized, I would say the Holy Spirit drew me to this change in my life’s trajectory. Pursuing any type of Master’s was honestly never on my radar, let alone a Master’s that required my attending seminary.

When I graduated from college, I had a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, intent on teaching at the early elementary level for the duration of my work life. Life, though, doesn’t always go as planned, and as I’ve come to realize, that can be a good thing.

At the time when I began to consider attending Northern Seminary, I had a part-time job as the Communications Director for a para-church ministry in my community. I homeschooled our three children, two of whom were moving into their teen years. I was also busy with advocacy work―seeking to shine a light on injustices perpetrated or covered up by churches and mission organizations and helping victims find hope and healing. Honestly, trying to fit one more thing on my plate seemed a bit crazy. There was also the question of what I would even do with my degree once I finished the program. Pastoring or leading as a woman in the Church did not make sense within the purview of what I understood a woman’s roles to be.

I had been feeling unsettled for quite some time when seminary first came onto my radar. I was uncertain if I was fully using all the gifts the Holy Spirit has equipped me with. I began grappling with whether it was actually biblical that women not be given a seat at the table and not be allowed into positions of leadership if they were called and gifted. For a variety of reasons, we began questioning whether the mega-church where our family had been attending was where we were supposed to be. There was just an unsettledness in my spirit, but I had no idea what God was doing and the way he was going to move in my life. But seminary? It didn’t make sense.

It was actually my husband, who I consider my biggest cheerleader, who introduced me to Northern, who affirmed my gifts, and who told me he felt like it would be a great fit for me. When I questioned myself, my lack of specific calling, the cost, or whether I could even complete the work as an “older” student, he encouraged me to continue pursuing it. I started reading authors like Carolyn Custis James, Pastor Tara Beth Leach, and Scot McKnight, who opened my eyes to what women did in Scripture and the value they had to God. I saw how that applies to women in the Church today. I felt affirmed, seen, heard, and ready to plunge headlong into the next chapter of my life. I filled out the application, went through the interview process, was accepted, and just like that, I was a seminary student.

Now in hindsight, in the third year of a four-year program, I can say my seminary experience has truly been a gift that has deeply enriched my life. I have learned theology, Church history, and gained a deeper appreciation for Scripture. I have also been privileged to sit under gifted men and women of God, who have not only taught me but challenged me, mentored me, and pastored me as well. I have developed deep and lasting friendships with my cohort, which is made up of men and women of all ages, from all walks of life, and in all manner of ministry. My seminary sisters have encouraged me, cried with me, and we have created a bond which will last well beyond graduation. My seminary brothers have championed us, their sisters, valued our voices, and encouraged our gifts. I have stretched and grown as a person, a scholar, and as a follower of Christ.

This isn’t just a shameless plug for Northern or a plug for attending seminary, although I do champion both of those things loudly and frequently. What I hope someone will take away from reading this is an encouragement to step out of your comfort zone. I think you’ll find, like I did that, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.” Do that thing that doesn’t completely make sense but which you know in your gut, in your spirit you need to do. Trust that what God is leading you to, you have already been equipped for, even if it’s scary. Pray, seek the advice of wise people, and if the door opens, walk through. You may just find a gift on the other side.