“Do you have to put everything through a theological filter?” Such was the response I got from a disgruntled family member. True, I had over-reacted towards his casual remark and almost turned it into a debate over the correct interpretation of the biblical text. My excuse, though, was that I was buried in my theology textbooks at that moment. However, there were some truths to his question, or complaint, for that matter.
If I could borrow Paul’s analogy of the Christian journey as running a race, then while most people are doing their daily dose of running exercises, I am being put through boot camp training. Not only is my mind being constantly challenged and stimulated, spiritual formation is also an indispensable portion of seminary education. As such, I find myself more sensitive to the Spirit, more sound in, and sometimes, more vocal with my theology.
This comes with a cost (and I am not talking about the literal cost of tuition and textbooks!). Perhaps the response that I received was not merely directed towards me for that one time, but a general observation of me changing over the course of my seminary journey, which created some uncomfortable feelings. The same situation also came up with some friends, especially those of whom I had not talked to for a while. My conclusion is that while I had always had a Paul-and-Barnabas relationship with them, all of a sudden they felt it turn into a Paul-and-Timothy relationship, and they do not want to be a Timothy, at least not with me.
I have once heard that people are not afraid of change — they are just afraid of the cost associated with change, whatever that cost is. The cost in this case could be that they see me as lecturing and judging, or that they fear a gap has come between us. My challenge is to introduce the change in me and in the relationships with family and friends carefully, to minimize any unnecessary costs. Depending on how the situation is handled, it can become a crisis or an opportunity. I pray that by the grace of God and the grace of my family and friends, we will all benefit from these changing dynamics in our relationships.
Little by Little
Little by little, day by day
Little by little in ev’ry way
I’m growing like my Lord
More like my Lord
As I’m learning about God’s ways
And obeying what He says
Jesus is changing me
-by Elsie Dietz Lippy
Wendy Choy-Chan came to North America from Hong Kong when she was 15. She is now a full-time mom and part-time student at Fuller Northwest studying for her MA in Theology. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Seattle, WA.