What they didn't tell me in seminary

Mar 22, 2019 7:00:00 AM / by Rebecca Ninke

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When I started seminary, I listened keenly to that sense of call – and was certain God would put in my path some amazing opportunity to change the world. Imagine my surprise when what God seemed to put in my path instead was a lot of adult diapers.  

You spend a lot of time in seminary learning systematic theology, Greek, Hebrew, and church history. What isn’t necessarily covered are the “holy crap, I can’t believe I’m doing this” moments. I doubt I am alone among the ranks of church workers, whose voice in my head has sometimes screamed,

“THIS ISN’T WHAT YOU SIGNED UP TO DO!”   

Some of the more colorful memories include stepping over a recently deceased body on the living room floor at 3 a.m. on Easter morning, stepping into a very full chuck pad and adult diapers, being sprayed with no fewer than five forms of bodily fluids (does spit up breast milk count as one or two?), and stepping into various piles of manure from horse, cow, bat, cat, mouse, dog, and goat while wearing heels.  

Does anyone else sense a theme? Please consider a gift card to the shoe store for the clergy in your life. 

When I’ve been asked over dinner how work went, my family understands if I put up my hands and say, “Don’t ask.” But you know what? The funny thing is, I don’t know that I would change any of it – except my shoes.  

Though some ministry experiences have been nothing short of bizarre, there lives in me a profound sense of gratitude that I am allowed into people’s lives at the most vulnerable moments of joy and pain. 

I have held in my arms babies born that never took a breath and cried with their parents as I instinctively started rocking back and forth.  I have cried again a couple years later when another baby was born joyously screaming at the top of his lungs.  

I have had the privilege of gathering around the dying for a final blessing with family and have been present for more last breaths than I can remember, amazed every single time how you can be here one moment and gone the next.   

I have had the honor to be the last person to see the face of a loved one as the top of the casket is closed and trusted to say a few words that claim life even in the midst of death.  

I have gotten down on my hands and knees in a skirt with my backside in the air to scoop a fat toad out of the hole dug for an urn so that the sound of laughter marked the final goodbye of a man who loved a good joke. 

I have celebrated with friends and strangers at births, adoptions, baptisms, confirmations, graduations, weddings, retirements, and everything in between.  I can list in order which bakeries in three counties make the best sheet cakes.  

The vault of my mind is filled with confessions and secrets that I will take to my grave.  It is both an honor and weight to carry the profound secrets of others and I am thankful for the trust placed in me.

Is there a better job?  I am no one special, yet here I am, being called into the most profound moments of people’s lives and welcomed into their homes.  

Just make sure I take my shoes off at your door. 

Topics: General Ministry

Rebecca Ninke

Written by Rebecca Ninke

Rebecca is an author, freelance writer/editor, and pastor.  She currently serves two churches in the Madison, Wisconsin area.  She also has two kids, two dogs, two cats, but only one husband.

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