AJ left this question in the comments while I was on vacation, and I’m planning to tackle it in multiple posts. I’ve consulted the authorities, and this is fully permissible on this blog; I started it as a writing discipline, so if I write it, it’s permissible. You don’t have to like it! 🙂
The summer of 1990 was a huge transition point for Elaine and me. We graduated from college the end of April, got married June 2, and moved to Southern California to start at Fuller Theological Seminary in August. Everything we owned went to California in a pickup truck. Elaine had no job, and I had a 10 hour a week stipend as youth pastor at Glendora Friends Church…and we still managed to get a little one bedroom apartment in Pasadena, just a block away from the Rose Parade route (which we never went to). We were incredibly, optimistically, naive; we gave ourselves basically one afternoon to find and secure an apartment, and it worked. Of course. The farther away I get from that experience, the more amazed I am. They gave us an apartment with a higher rent than the income we could prove at that time!
It was in high school that I first felt like being a pastor was what I ought to do with my life. So, all through college, I planned to go to seminary. I chose Fuller because I wanted to be challenged; I wanted to be at a school that was intellectually stimulating, and I didn’t just want to be told what to believe. I wanted to learn how to think biblically (at least, that’s how I would have said it then.)
Being at Fuller met and exceeded those goals. I loved the school environment…and we hated Southern California. It was lonely. It was huge. We felt out of place. But it probably was a really good thing for our marriage. It felt like it was “you and me, against the world!”
Have you ever taken a puzzle box, opened it up, and thrown the pieces into the air? I’ve described my first year at Fuller before as the year where they took everything I knew about God, Jesus, and the bible, and threw it up in the air. Some people actually warned me about that. They were scared, I think, that I would “lose my faith.” It was very unnerving at times, but the process was absolutely essential and a wonderful thing. For the rest of my time there (and still to this day), I’ve had to take each of those individual puzzle pieces and say, “Do I really think this? Is it mine? Or someone else’s? Does it belong in this puzzle, or does it not belong in my box?” I made my faith mine, not something I inherited. And I had to learn where to look for the “boxtop”, the picture that showed what held it all together. The bible became a living and breathing book for me; and on top of that, my puzzle went from 100 pieces to 1000 pieces at least. Life became more alive…and much more complex.