Connected Stories

In the pursuit to know God more, many theologians have cautioned that seminary can become a cemetery for faith. These warnings indicate a movement away from God. Students replace talking with God to solely talking about God. And yet, my personal experience could not be farther from this assertion.

I wholeheartedly believe that the seminary experience can be a place of holistic transformation. In the unique place of seminary, our stories merge as we study together, worship together, and serve together. We become together. In thinking through this reflection on my own call into the academy, and specifically the invitation into Old Testament studies, I cannot help but tear up at how the sacred space of seminary profoundly impacted my own journey. Being drawn closer to God, this season of my life is where I met God in unexpected ways, saw myself for the first time through God’s eyes as one truly created in the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:27),  and developed a community of friendships that spoke and continue to speak affirming words of life and healing. These experiences have forever altered my trajectory.

The origin–genesis story of my dive into Old Testament studies is a bit odd. Teaching the Old Testament was not on my radar for most of my adult life. In fact, I was bit leary of the Old Testament. As a young child, unbeknownst to me, a relative threw away a stuffed toy of mine. It was my favorite toy, a Kermit the Frog doll. I thought it was a lost toy for a few months but then later learned the reason behind this toy removal. This relative thought frogs were evil! Because of this incident I was timid about the Old Testament for many years and thought it was a weird part of the Bible. I wanted to read God’s word in order to know more about God, but I was actually terrified of what I might become. These early memories were powerful.  Later, I learned that she had misinterpreted the plague stories in Exodus. Of course, frogs are not evil. In fact, after God creates, God proclaims everything, “good!” This includes the frogs! You might think this is a strange origin story into Old Testament studies and you are correct. I have learned over the years of teaching and in ministry, that many of us have weird “frog” stories of our own.

In order to revisit this weird frog situation, I decided to audit a seminary course called Old Testament Theology. I wept. I yearned to know the Bible like this professor. To be able to trace themes and motifs, to see the greater narrative that calls to us as God’s missional people. This one audited course turned into a degree in the Old Testament. I thought this was the end of my education, but God had other plans.

After seminary, our family moved to plant a church near Portland, Oregon. I found myself invited into an opportunity to teach biblical studies at George Fox University. Teaching was still not on my radar, but I decided to trust God and say yes. This yes turned into a passion for teaching that eventually led to my doctoral studies. It was through new friendships and community in this season in Oregon where God continued to work out my calling and passion for the Old Testament.

One of the fun ironies of this past year has been in conversations with young women who have crossed my path and were considering seminary. More than a few times I have pointed them into the direction of NTS. For many of the women that have plopped into my office, they have been frustrated with their sense of God’s calling.  The frustrations were rooted in the experiences of not been affirmed in their ecclesial settings, simply because they are women. My response is often, “Why run in the mud? Go to a seminary that affirms your calling. You should consider a seminary like NTS!” When NTS extended an invitation to join the faculty, it was with great delight to respond with a, “Yes!”

One of the areas I am excited about for this fall at NTS is to journey with students as they explore next steps in their lives. Learning how our stories are connected within the deep roots of the Old and New Testaments, as God’s people, centers us in a shared memory, yet spurs us on to become voices of creative expression in the Christ–formed communities we find ourselves. My hope and prayer is that together, we can dive deep into what it means to live out the missional call of God, share some of our “frog stories,” and encounter God through the creative, transformative, and hospitable space of the seminary experience.

Jennifer-Matheny-Nazarene-Theological-Seminary

Jenny Matheny
Assistant Professor of Old Testament

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