MACP student Cheryl Schenck writes about how ending her time at The Seattle School doesn’t mean an end to growth, learning, and transformation.
I can’t believe I’m in the final days before graduation. What began as an impossible fantasy has become a hard earned accomplishment. As proud as I am of earning a post-graduate degree, something I had not imagined for myself in earlier days, the diploma is merely a signpost, a “pillar of stone” if you will. It marks where I have journeyed in discovery, exploration, profound relationship, and transformation; a marker where I experienced God.
I recently returned from the east coast where I visited with my extended family. Several of them, with congratulatory intentions said things like, So – you’re almost done! Aren’t you relieved to be finished with all the burdensome academics? I was at a loss on to how to say, “No… I’m not glad…not in the way you’re suggesting.” Sure, there’s some relief from the pressure of deadlines and late-night writing projects. But my journey, starting with Mars Hill Graduate School and on through The Seattle School, hasn’t been an exercise to complete the requirements so I can get out with a piece of paper for a credential. No – what I’ve been doing is more than working on a master’s degree.
Three years ago my husband and I completely up ended our well-established lives in Washington DC / Virginia. Already working in a respected career as an occupational therapist, and living out my support role as a ministry wife, I had the audacity to disrupt it all. I quit my job, moved out of our four bedroom colonial house, gave away furniture to our adult children, and set up homes in two small apartments: one on each coast, DC and Seattle. We flew back and forth, keeping our relationship alive on daily phone calls, video chats, and long awaited reunions. My husband continued his ministry to government officials in Washington DC, while I opened up books, attended classes, cried in Practicum, and discovered unexplored territory in my heart, faith, and theology.
It has been worth every bit of crazy disruption as what I have experienced at The Seattle School is a place of spiritual formation, even while being trained as a therapist. Along the way I have dared to see God in places I hadn’t seen before. I’ve discovered God is not outside of my questions and doubts, but instead is in the midst of them, using my unsolved queries to draw me closer, providing a glimpse to the expanse beyond. I’ve received profound affirmations and nurturing from professors that believed in me even when my legs felt shaky and I wasn’t sure I could do it on my own.
So no, I’m not looking at graduation as a day of freedom from the academic grind. Instead, I’m filled with gratitude and ambivalence. I am excited as I look forward to the new opportunities my experience at The Seattle School will launch, while at the same time I hesitate to let go of this place that has brought deep and enduring meaning in my life. The diploma that will hang on my wall will not only acknowledge I’ve succeeded at the required educational rigor, but will forever be a reminder of the sacred environment, precious people, and transformative process for which I am grateful beyond words.