Farewell Southern Seminary: A Bitter Departure Home, Sweet Home

maxresdefaultBitter sweet. As cliché as that may sound, it’s the only way I know how to describe what I am feeling.

One year ago, my family and I left everything, including those closest to us, in California, and headed for Louisville, Kentucky. Admittedly, I was as giddy as a Toys ‘R’ Us kid on a mega-shopping-spree. I was in theological heaven, and I was determined to learn from some of the greatest evangelical minds of our day.

But God…

During our time with Southern, I suddenly and progressively began experiencing a deeper awareness of my own spiritual stagnancy. As close as I felt to God in my mind, I was even further away from Him in my heart.

I began to notice how I had slid downward on a spiral of isolation and prayerlessness. It’s almost as if, for the last few years, I’ve had an Elijah experience on repeat:

“And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” – 1 Kings 19:4

The problem was, unlike Elijah, I had failed to allow the angels of God to minister to me, to nourish me and rejuvenate my soul.

Rather than face all of my past fears and failures, and take ownership of them, I suppressed them and avoided them, hoping to move on to a greater spiritual awakening. But only, I didn’t know how. I was stuck between the wall of my past, and the wall of my present.

I desired to be a better husband, a better father, and a better disciple, but avoided the relational intimacy that each of those roles require. Sure, I could play the extrovert, and have you believing that I was good at this whole “relationship” thing. But that could not be further from the truth.

The truth is, I suck at relationships. I tend to be whom you want me to be, in the moment, so as to advance my own agenda.

So, why did I go to Southern Seminary?

I do feel called to the pastorate. To preach and teach the Word of God and see others come alive, together with Christ. I knew that Southern Seminary provided top-notch theological education, and so that is where I was determined to go.

Amidst my short time here at Southern, however, I’ve learned far more than any classroom could provide. I look around and see brothers who are not only passionate about the Gospel, but brothers who are passionate about biblical manhood.

I look around and see the time and the sacrifices that they have made for their wives, and sons, and daughters—how they love them with the love of Christ—and can’t help but notice how it all points back to the love of our Father who is in Heaven. I sat through chapel services and heard some of the greatest preachers I’ve ever heard, humbly proclaim a crucified Christ, and God’s sacrificial love for us.

Conviction began to set in, and I couldn’t help but to feel as if I was not being the father I ought to be. What was I doing here, in Louisville, while my children were growing up without me, 2000 miles away?

Suppose I graduate with my Master of Divinity, and go on to plant a budding church, or step into a pastorate at some mega-church along the Bible Belt down South. What would I have gained if my children had grown up bitter towards Father God because their only connection to Him was through their own father, who had abandoned them for the sake of “ministry”?

My family is my first ministryHow can I evangelize and disciple my children if I am ever so absent from their lives?

It is not a matter of being in the wrong or being in the right, it is a matter of being in Christ, and becoming who God has created me to be. God has created me to be a husband, a father, and a son. How could I ever honor God through the pastorate, if I fail to honor God in my marriage and in my relationship with my children?

So, I received a job offer in Fresno, the city where my children reside. Sure the cost of living is higher. Sure I’d be leaving one of the greatest seminaries in the world.

But, it is one of the greatest seminaries in the world that God has used to bring me to this very conclusion: I need to love and lay down my life for my family and friends in the same way that God has done for me.

I need to meet my kids where they are at so that they will understand the God I serve, and His great love for us.

Though we will deeply miss the church that we have grown to love, the work—here at Southern—that I feel serves the greater cause of Christ, and the friends that we have come to know, God has used Southern Seminary to prepare us for such a time as this.

Farewell, friends, at Southern, and thank you for the light you shine. We are forever grateful for the work you do.

With that said, we’re going back to Cali.