I am two-thirds of the way finished with my seminary career, and I cannot imagine the journey without my village of people, who have walked beside me and cheered me on. At times, my seminary classes have been rigorous, and much learning has taken place within those classrooms, but what been true for me is I have learned much more about ministry outside of the classroom. Those extracurricular lessons have been learned during afternoon porch chats, conversation over coffee, serving with classmates in a ministry setting, and in moments of vulnerability when life was overwhelming or uncomfortable. The life lessons I have encountered through my village can be pretty well summed up in five ways:

1. Being a non-anxious presence is both essential and challenging. I have experienced the power of non-anxious presence within my community and have been given the freedom to ‘not be okay’ when there has been loss, grief, anger, or disappointment. I have learned that both tears and laughter are healing balms.

2. Hospitality is a gift. The feeling of welcome and full acceptance is beautiful and life giving. My village has shown me the gift of hospitality by driving long distances to share a meal or coffee with me when my life has seemed uncertain. My village has invited me into their homes and shared their families so that we could do life together.

3. Vulnerability creates a sense of belonging. The gift of vulnerability within my village has not come to me easily. It is hard for me to vocalize the struggles that I am facing or to share the emotions I am feeling. Yet being vulnerable with my community has lessened my anxiety and fear of not being loved or accepted. Through creating space for the uncomfortable and ugly pieces of ourselves, we gain the ability for confidence and holistic living to bloom.

4. Everyone is different, and that is wonderful. Both inside and outside of the classroom I have learned that my village does not have to only include people who think, look, or act like me. Seminary is like a salad, where people come together to learn and grow with one another, while embracing and celebrating the uniqueness of each individual.

5. Perfectionism hinders relationships. Perfectionism is a daily struggle for me so much so that at times I have been immobilized by the fear that my friends and colleagues will peel back a layer of me and realize that I am far from perfect. This fear has kept me from speaking in class, from applying for jobs, and from building relationships with people. What I have learned through doing life within community is that at some level we all struggle with perfectionism. I have learned that sometimes we just have to show up no matter how messy or not put together we may seem because we matter. Each of us has something wonderful to offer to the world and to our village.

This week let’s take time to celebrate our villages. No matter what stage of life, we all have a group of people who are on our team no matter what. I am grateful for my seminary–for my professors and classmates. I am thankful that I can grow and learn from one another as a village.