There’s a particular moment in the early morning when Kyle can be found at our kitchen table, pencil in his right hand and book cradled in his left, head cocked to the same angle, studying.
Sometimes after a run or while I make breakfast I can literally stare at him for minutes undetected because he is so engrossed in his reading. Oftentimes I am filled with admiration for his commitment to studying Scripture and so many formational textbooks…especially before 8 a.m. Let’s be honest.
Most of these mornings, it’s sweet to be a seminary wife.
There are also mornings when I’m ready for my full-time student, part-time employee, tuition-paying husband to be done with seminary.
While the experience differs for every couple, there are privileges and challenges to being a seminary wife. I’ve tried here to explain briefly what it’s like for me.
Being a Seminary Wife…Over the Dinner Table
At least twice a week I sit across from my husband who expresses with animation that something in class will (quote) “blow my mind.” Most times the discussion is interesting, and for the times when I don’t resonate with the topic, I know how to gently let myself off the hook (a crucial skill for all seminary wives). He takes it well and knows I won’t ever share his enthusiasm for Greek parsing.
That said, it’s a privilege to be the one Kyle includes first in his learning process. And lest we forget my own learning process, this year my musings and questions are sparking dialogues I haven’t allowed myself to have in awhile. My intrigued husband makes me feel smart with his affirmation and engagement. We’re getting to know each other more deeply. This is definitely a perk of being a seminary wife.
Speaking of dinner, we almost always eat together every night. It’s the sacred moment of our day when phones go away, homework goes away, and we actually make eye contact and talk about what’s going on. We’re usually eating homemade food, since my de-stressor from work is cooking and we rarely go out to eat because of the budget we committed to. Feeding Kyle is my tiny way of freeing him up to engage with his studies and work.
If I can be really honest, it’s hard going from DINC (Double Income No Kids) to SISS (Single Income with Seminary Student) (technical term I made up, by the way). Yet for the years ahead when kids or sickness or unemployment create a tight financial situation, we can always look back on these days and say confidently that God supplies what we need (and really know what that means, a skill that many Americans starting with myself sorely lack).
Being a Seminary Wife…In Our Home
Our home is 477 square feet of cozy but old and un-spectacular space. ‘Tiny’ does mean less to clean and fewer ways to avoid each other, resulting in better conflict resolution (silver linings people). I try to recognize that even though our apartment is being torn down in nine months, our bathroom ceiling sometimes leaks, and we have itty bitty sugar ants who visit us once a week, we can bless the Lord who gives us a roof over our heads. Our home is comfortable and clean, but we can’t afford glorious. As a seminary wife, I’m learning to be content with this and abandon any feelings of entitlement (relapses occur weekly).
We only have space to host one couple or family at a time. All the same, we just love having people over. Hospitality is very simple for us, but as a seminary wife, I find it a privilege to come alongside my husband in creating an authentic and welcoming place to continue the conversations from the classroom. I hope to carry this spirit of hospitality into the future.
Being a Seminary Wife…With Our Neighbors
The beauty of living in housing so close to Fuller is that many of our neighbors are also seminary students, or seminary spouses. The bummer is that we’re a good 1000+ miles from all the friends we have history with, who given the choice we’d also make live on the same block. And we also still miss our families–living so very far away hasn’t normalized.
A fantastic thing about Fuller is that seminary spouses don’t have to stay on the fringes. I can audit classes for next to nothing; I am welcome to attend many of the functions and events that students do; and I even have my own support group!
This group of fellow seminary wives we nicknamed “The Fuller Wives Club.” We are led by the wife of the Dean of Intercultural Studies, and we meet regularly to pray for each other and our husbands. We plan beach days during finals weeks…after all, we’re not the ones who have to take the exams. We empathize immediately when someone says “I’m tired of the studying” or “we’re broke” or “I miss home.” We wrestle through our calling to a lifestyle of ministry, beginning with the demands and schedule of seminary. I’ve never been in a community quite like this and I doubt I’ll ever be in one like it again.
The other surprise blessing of being a seminary wife is that even though I’m not taking classes, I get to be friends with cool students who are here for the classes. One of the original draws to Fuller for Kyle and me was the tri-fold emphasis on intercultural, psychological, and theological studies. I can’t even count how many students from all three of these disciplines I’ve gotten to know either personally or with Kyle. These are people who are shaping my worldview and heart for the kingdom. They never treat me as ’just’ a seminary wife either, but rather as a vital member of this community.
Being a Seminary Wife…For the Long Haul
Seminary is a unique investment. I think of all the energy already spent studying and feeding the study-er. Going to class and going to work to pay for the class. Praying over our present and our future. Sometimes, if I’m honest, I ask myself if it will be worth it. It sounds like an awful thing to say as a seminary wife, but it’s where I’m at some days. Why are we doing this? What pay-off awaits on the other side? Typical grad school outcomes like higher salary or more recognition are not what any of this is about in the end.
It’s about something much bigger than ourselves or our marriage, actually.
Yes, it’s about giving Kyle the opportunity to pursue a degree at a school that he has dreamed of for several years. It’s about the amazing servants of God that we’re meeting because we moved 2,000 miles to Southern California. It’s about putting some money where our mouth is and believing that kingdom goals are worth the time, tuition, and dedication.
I think about the people we don’t yet know that God will have us serve, encourage, or spur on toward loving Jesus. They will be worth this training–this seminary training, definitely, and equally valuable, this seminary wife training.
I underestimated the commitment this degree requires from a wife, and I’m being stretched—uncomfortably, sometimes—by it. This commitment takes submission to Jesus, to my husband the full-time student, to a community of believers from all backgrounds and denominations, and to the truth that God has a use for our lives far beyond our own plans.