Author B.J. Neblett once said that we all are the sum of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are… None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.” Although, Neblett may not be regarded as a philosopher by the academic community, his statement certainly embodies a philosophy in very modest language that my journey as a seminarian substantiates… especially the genesis of my journey. In fact, I discern a call by G-d to share the challenges that I have encountered during my early semesters for not only my own cathartic relief but also to be an advocate for others who have either recently darkened the doors of a seminary or look forward to this rapturous experience. To persons of both statuses I dedicate these words.
During the summer preceding my senior year of college, I experienced the strangest and most unsettling phenomenon. One morning I woke up and saw that three mysterious bumps had developed overnight on my skin. Since they did not itch, I concluded that they were not insect bites. Each morning I would discover that the old bumps from the previous day had disappeared and new ones had formed… something clearly was not right. As time progressed, the bumps had increased in size, spread all over my body, and itched incessantly. These were not merely bumps… they were hives. I scheduled an appointment with a doctor and then an allergist as soon as possible which yielded no fruitful results. Neither could diagnose my condition, leaving me to itch day and night with no relief amid all the demands of a graduating senior. Once I finally graduated and reached Atlanta, the hives seemed to marginally subside. This was greatly misleading because they returned full-throttle… and with a vengeance!
It was during my earlier semesters in seminary that this enigmatic, merciless condition dealt its most devastating blow. Not only had the hives worsened but they were accompanied by the most unpleasant swelling of the deeper layers of my skin. On many occasions I could not sleep because the swelling caused me to snore so loudly that I awakened myself. The constant itching and sleep deprivation made studying an insurmountable task, especially since I had to read texts such as Nicomachean Ethics and Plato’s Republic. My future seemed bleak… but things soon changed for the better.
A dermatologist was finally able to get her hands on my medical record to reach out to me to schedule an appointment. Fortunately, she was able to diagnose my condition as chronic idiopathic urticaria and prescribe a treatment that was an answer to prayers because my condition has completely disappeared! Ever since my treatment, my academic performance and sleeping regimen have improved considerably. I am now much more optimistic about my future since that massive wall of infirmity has been torn down.
To all the other current and prospective seminarians who have also been demoralized by adversity, or will in the future, I extend this testimony and these words of consolation. Remind yourself daily of G-d’s love for you, how G-d called you to serve G-d, and how G-d has the power to deliver you. You too are on a journey… an evolving journey that turns when you least expect it so take delight in the fact that tomorrow will look different from yesterday.