My husband and I met in undergrad where we both earned a B.A. in Christian theology and biblical studies (or ‘religion’ as it is formally named in the student handbook). We worked for high grade-point averages, T.A.’d for the same first-year class, and split the award for the Outstanding Senior in Religion for 2013. We took classes together, edited each other’s papers, and wrote and delivered a joint sermon to our peers and faculty.
He is now earning his M.Div. (Master of Divinity) at Duke University. From there, he will go on to earn his Ph.D., be ordained as a Presbyterian pastor, teach in a religion department at a college, or lead his own church congregation. He is called to ministry in the church and/or the academy.
I, however, am not called to ministry. I graduated Summa Cum Laude (in a ceremony where the dean read my name immediately after my husband’s), moved to Durham and started my own business as a freelance copy editor.
Lately I’ve been struggling with how I am supposed to identify myself by my degree without actually being in divinity school. I am not earning my M.Div., but I’m also not only a wife supporting her husband with no intellectual connection to the content he studies.
I am not called to ministry, but I am not completely disconnected from it either.
I am also not willing to define my connection to ministry through my husband’s call to ministry. Jon’s call is Jon’s call; the only bearing his call has on me is his need for my financial and emotional support as he pursues it.
There is strange dynamic between me and the Duke Divinity School ‘groups’ I associate with: M.Div./M.T.S. students (Jon’s peers) and the div. school spouses.
The first question I get from Jon’s peers (our friends pursuing ministry) when they learn I have a degree in theology/Bible is, “Why aren’t you in div. school like us? You could earn this degree, no problem!”
I must admit, I greatly appreciate this vote of confidence in my intellectual capability; however, the connotation of this question that rattles in my brain (one I know is absolutely unintentional on the part of my wonderful friends) is:
“Why aren’t you following the correct path with us? What you are doing isn’t what people with theology degrees do.”
On the other side of the chapel doors stands the spouses group—women who are working various jobs to support ministry-pursuing husbands. The women who attend the weekly DSS meetings are strong, hardworking, loving and supportive wives, mothers and friends.
Most have degrees in something other than theology (from nursing to English). Many of these wives (understandably and, in their own way, correctly) define their connection to ministry by the ministry their husbands pursue. The question I most often hear from the Div. school wives is:
“Why did you get a theology degree if you wanted to be an editor? Why didn’t you get an English degree?”
The truth is, I chose my major for no reason having to do with a call I felt I had to ministry; I chose theology for the volume of writing it required, the one-on-one relationships with my professors it facilitated, and the fact that I always had more questions than answers (and that I wasn’t the only one questioning).
I learned how to edit well because I had to write and edit, A LOT.
I learned how to ask questions that most often led to more questions.
I learned to be ‘content’ in my state of inconclusiveness and a gaping lack of discernment.
I learned how to talk to people well, love people well, and disagree with people well.
My degree didn’t facilitate a call to ministry in me. My degree made me a better editor, church member, and life-long learner. It even made me a better wife to my theologian (err, husband).
I’m not trying to be a rebel by not going to Div. school. I’m not trying to be a radical feminist or anti-establishment activist by refusing to define myself by my husband’s call and pursuit of higher education. I’m not trying to subvert expectations or qualifications of the literary/publishing world by working as an editor while having earned a degree in theology rather than English.
I am simply trying to support my husband, create a successful career as an editor and use (in both of those roles) the invaluable skills I acquired from earning my theology and biblical studies degree.