by Mark Snoeberger

Since my wife and I are seminary survivors that still occasionally hold hands in public, we are sometimes asked, “How did you do it?” Or “How did you survive the seminary experience?” For the next two posts on this blog, we are going to answer that question—I from my perspective, and Heather from hers. It’s just one couple’s story of seminary survival, and our experience is not necessarily normative. But if you are considering seminary or just starting out in seminary, we’re hopeful that you can find something here that will help you on your journey. First, my answer:

(1) We integrated our mission. On my very first day of seminary in 1994, Dr. McCune preached a chapel sermon about balancing seminary and family life. His big idea was that there was nothing to balance. I should not think of my family and my ministry as two independent forces dividing my attention. Such an idea would be as ludicrous as the coaching staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers agonizing between the independent goals of (1) cultivating a quality team and (2) winning the Superbowl. The two cannot be divorced: a quality team is forged in the pursuit of the championship.

The same thing was true, Dr. McCune told us, in the ministry. The whole family was here to go to seminary. For Heather, I would be the star quarterback. For me, Heather would be the most beautiful cheerleader in the whole world, and after the game every night, I got to take her home with me. And the kids? They grew up cheering for the team, too. Mom would have it no other way. We didn’t juggle family and ministry—we integrated them.

(2) We worked hard to mature at the same rate. Another bit of advice that Dr. McCune gave us seminarians was not to leave our wives behind. To that end, our church has a Bible Institute where our wives can enjoy less intense but still formal theological education. Heather was also able to sit in on several seminary classes with me before the kids started arriving. After that, dinnertime became the venue of choice for continuing education. And after all the schooling was done, I think I can safely say there was no discernible gap of spiritual maturity or Bible knowledge between us. In fact, I’m pretty sure she has the edge in both areas. And that has significantly strengthened our marriage.

(3) We each studied how the other found fulfillment in life and worked hard to make it happen. We realized from the outset that men and women find their fulfillment in different ways. God gave Adam a farm and gave Eve a husband. God told the man to work the farm and told Eve to help the man. God designed humanity such that men find their fulfillment in doing something great; women in helping someone become great. It’s only because of the Fall that those original goals are reversed in modern society. We tried to discover how God designed us and welcomed it.

(4) We prepared ourselves psychologically. We talked endlessly about what God might accomplish through us, and prayed that he would. We tried not to concentrate on the “light and momentary troubles” but on the “exceeding weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Frankly, we never thought about “surviving” seminary any more than we thought about “surviving” our recent rim-to-rim hike across the Grand Canyon. We planned to do something big together, cherished every incredible minute, and brought lots of extra batteries for the camera so that we would never, ever forget the trip. And if you begin seminary like that, you’ll never have to worry about “surviving” anything.

For the next post in this weblog, we’ll look at Heather’s perspective on the same question (actually, it’s already written, and I can heartily recommend it). Tune in next time for the incredible conclusion. You don’t want to miss it.