By Vivian Bricker, Crosswalk.com
Seminary is a tough place for females, or at least it was when I went to seminary. Sadly, even among Christians, seminary is normally associated with only males. When females go to seminary, often, we are met with strange looks or odd stares. In my own experience, this is exactly what happened when I started seminary. If you are a female and are currently going through seminary, or are about to start seminary, here are five bits of encouragement for you:
1. You Are More Than Capable
The first bit of encouragement I want to share with females in seminary is that you are more than capable. Many times, unfortunately, the men in seminary will make you feel less smart or overall inferior. During my time in seminary, I had to transfer to a different institute because the hate against single women was so strong that I did not want to stay there to complete my degree, and I didn't see that what they were teaching was biblical. They had added many man-made teachings to the Bible, which is never a good idea. Nonetheless, this seminary taught me how negatively some seminaries view women negatively.
In my own experience, only males were professors of our Bible classes as women were not allowed to teach. In addition, the male professors and other male students saw my sister and me as being inferior to them. My sister and I both attended seminary together, which I'm eternally grateful for because at least we were not completely alone in the prejudice being held against us just because of being females. The male professors would give us harder theses and controversial topics they wanted us to cause an outcry about, such as women's rights or other political matters. Not to mention the males in our classes putting down our projects, papers, and discussion boards.
Rather than letting these things get you down, know that you are more than capable. Don't doubt yourself. God created you uniquely, and you are just as smart as the males there—no matter what they try to say to you. It is not a "fact" that men are smarter than women. Rather, everyone is smart, and we all can do well in our classes if we try, study, and do our work. In other words, remember that you are more than capable of the work being given to you despite the patriarchal views surrounding you.
2. Your Sole Purpose in Life is Not to Be Married
A second bit of encouragement that I want to give to females in seminary is that your sole purpose in life is not to be married. I have received much negative feedback for my views on this topic, but the truth is that I'm only turning to what the Bible says. The Christian circle I used to be part of had an overly obsessive view of marriage to the point that it distorted their view of the rest of their lives, including serving God. While there is nothing wrong with being married, one has to be careful not to turn it into an idol.
As a female in seminary, you can count on the efforts of those around you to find you “a good husband.” The truth is that your purpose in life is not to get married. In the Southern Baptist seminary I first attended before transferring to the seminary I graduated from, they would always stress the importance of getting married because they claimed a person is “not complete” without being married. This, is of course, not true because the Bible tells us we are already complete if we know Jesus as our Savior and Lord (Colossians 2:10).
If you are presently in seminary, know that your sole purpose in life is not to get married and bear children despite what a seminary might declare to you. While being married and having a family is good, being single and serving Christ is just as amazing. Many people may think marriage will cure them of their problems, cause them to feel complete, and finally know that they are loved. In my own experience growing up, my parents didn't have the best of marriages, and it helped me realize that being married doesn't mean you will feel loved all the time nor does it mean that it will make you “complete.”
You are eternally loved by God, and He loved you so much that He sent His Son to die for you (John 3:16-17). Marriage cannot promise you eternal happiness, love, and bliss, but a relationship with God will provide you with unconditional love, the promise that He will never leave you, and the promise that He will always walk by your side (Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:5). Thus, be encouraged to know that your only purpose in life is not to get married despite what seminary might tell you. God's purpose for you is unique to you.
3. There is Light at the End
A third bit of encouragement I would give females in seminary is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Often during seminary, we can get overworked and burned out because we are normally managing seminary, work, and our personal lives simultaneously. It can get quite draining and difficult. Even if you just started seminary, know that there is light at the end. From my own time in seminary, when I graduated, I knew I had grown greatly in my walk with Christ, and I had grown greatly in my knowledge of the Scriptures. I also learned more about differing views of theological matters that I was not exposed to during undergrad theological studies.
Remember when times get rough that you will finish, and it won't be this hard forever. Most academic tracks place you on a two-year period for your graduate degree. However, I do know many individuals who have been or who were in seminary for five years or more, but none of the females that I know who went to seminary ever spent more than two or three years to finish their degrees. I say this to encourage you because with how the time flies, you will be done with your degree in no time, and you'll be able to use what you know to help others and advance God's kingdom.
4. Don’t Let Others Look Down on You
A fourth bit of encouragement I would like to offer to the female seminary student is don't let others look down on you because you are a female. I discussed this somewhat in my first point, but I also feel this point deserved its own header. Unfortunately, even among Christians, women are treated as inferior to males despite God creating man and woman equally. Both males and females are made in God's image (Genesis 1:27). In seminary, you will hear many mixed messages over a woman's place in seminary, but I want you to know that you should not let them boss you around or look down on you because you are female.
Females are often seen as "weaker," "too emotional," or not as "smart" as men, but I want you to be encouraged by the truth that these things are not true. Women are brilliantly strong, and some people, myself included, would argue that women are actually stronger than men. Women must undergo a lot more than a man does, not only physically but mentally. One of my coworkers recently said, "A woman's job is never done." My coworker is completely correct because even after work or after seminary, there is always work to be done, and the female in the house is expected to balance a majority of the tasks such as cleaning and cooking. In addition to these things, females often mature faster than males, which means our thought processes and minds are more advanced than males. In fact, recent scientific studies prove that the female brain matures faster than the male brain.
In sum, don't let anyone look down on you for being a woman. You are an amazing creation of God, and He dearly loves you. Never doubt your worth and identity while you are at seminary because I know from my experience that seminary can be a place of remarkable prejudice even though it shouldn't be. I would like to hope most seminaries are similar to the seminary I transferred to, but sadly, I know of many seminaries across the South that are just like the seminary I first attended.
5. Don't Give Up
A fifth bit of encouragement I want to offer the female in seminary is to not give up. I don't know how many times I wanted to quit during seminary. The time period I was in seminary was a very tough season of my life. I remember during my first year at the Southern Baptist seminary that I had to have my wisdom teeth removed, which is hard enough, much less with all of the seminary work and all the constant unbiblical slurs coming at you daily. During my second year of seminary, I was in recovery for anorexia nervosa, which was one of the hardest periods of my life, and even now, I'm still working on fully recovering. Long story short, no matter what you are going through, don't give up. You are strong, and you can complete your degree through God's strength. That might sound cliche, but it is true. It is only by God's grace that I am here today, and it is by God's grace that you are where you are today in seminary.
Each of us had different experiences growing up. Some of our parents were encouraging while others were not. If you didn't have a supportive upbringing or you were told to give up when times are hard, I'm asking you to not give up and to try again. Seminary can be stressful in and of itself, but don't give up. Obtaining your master's or doctorate degree is no small task, and it is certainly not a walk in the park, yet there is so much you will learn through your time in seminary about God, the Bible, and yourself.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Paul Giglia
Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.