Theology is unlike any other field of study. This education is not something that is applied towards a job or career for eight hours a day. It is both knowledge and understanding that should create a lasting effect on the way one lives. Because of my personal experience, I don’t see how it is possible to receive an education in the field without going through many significant changes in the way we spend our lives.
I was fulfilling a seven-month sentence in a county jail when I first considered pursuing a degree in theology. There wasn’t much that could be said about my life in a positive manner. There was plenty of potential. However, all of my ambition was focused on my next drink. I am not one for making excuses, but if it weren’t for alcohol, my life would be drastically different. Without my past, I wouldn’t have all of the blessings I do today. I understand if you’re not able to comprehend that statement.
Reading a few books written by Scott Hahn really got to me while I was incarcerated. He wasn’t a priest, but he has been able to touch several lives with his education and the ability to use what he’s learned in teaching, writing and speaking. I had always had a talent for writing and wanted to do the same. I spent the next five months making plans for how this could happen. After all the thoughts and ideas I had, I was released from jail, went and got a hotel room, and then headed to my favorite bar.
My drinking became so bad that I ended up in a faith based recovery house for men suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. It was at this home and through the guidance of Jeff, the director, that I was able to discover my passion and ability to write about Scripture in a way that inspired the other men staying at the home at the time. To my surprise, Jeff was friends with Dr. Travis, the president of a Christian university. Within a month, I had been blessed with a scholarship to pursue an education in theology.
Returning to my past
This still wasn’t enough for me to realize God had a plan. After leaving the recovery home, it didn’t take long for me to return to my previous life style. I was able to continue with school for awhile, but God will only allow you pretend to be someone you’re not for so long. Over the next few years, this pattern continued.
I would stop drinking and start pursuing my education, just to return to drinking and reorganize my priorities. I’m still not sure why, but Dr. Travis never made the decision to revoke my scholarship. He continued to answer the emails every time I sent them. God has shown him something in me no one has been able to see, including myself. My wife will receive a glimpse of this image every now and then, but it doesn’t take long for the vision to get blurred.
Since last March, things have been different. I am not sure how to explain the situation. What I have been learning has created an effect on me. There have been moments of intense temptation concerning drinking and lust that have caused my mind to wander for far too long. It still bothers me that in several of these instances, my thoughts haven’t been, I’m a Christian and I need to obey God’s word. The thought of what I am learning, finally receiving a degree and having the opportunity to write about my faith has been what has kept me obedient. I am sure that is not ok and needs to change.
Putting my education to good use
I have finally realized and accepted in order for me to fully understand and apply what I am learning, I have to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to rearrange me inwardly. Maybe I should have studied history or science. Or, maybe I need to demonstrate a higher level of surrender towards what God is doing in my life. I can’t back out of things now. God has provided too many opportunities and I have too much time involved. This is it for me. I am 35 years old, happily married and the father of an amazing little girl who will be two in October. It’s theology or bust for me.
According to Thomas Aquinas, “Theology is a unified science in which all things are treated under the aspect of God either because they are of God himself or because they refer to God.” One of the most important lessons theology has taught me is the better understanding I now have of myself. Theology has taught me the importance of taking a moment to think before I act or speak. I now put more thought and consideration into the results my actions create for others, mainly my wife and daughter.
Preparing for the future
My studies have increased my level of intimacy with Jesus and opened my eyes to what the Holy Spirit is completing both in and through me. The further along I go into my studies, the stronger and more passionate my love becomes for the Catholic Church. The more our traditions and Sacraments mean to me, even though I haven’t been able to partake in them. In case you didn’t know, I am still in the process of converting. I attended a private, Catholic school growing up and have both attended mass and prayed the Rosary on almost a daily basis for months at a time throughout my adult life.
That being said, in the past, being drunk has always been more important than being Catholic. Every time I get close to the commitment, a pitcher of beer just shows up out of nowhere. I have started RCIA three times. Not that it matters, but I probably know more about the Catholic Church than the average Catholic. Other than my wedding and the birth of my daughter, I can’t ever remember wanting anything as bad as I want to “officially” be a member of the church. Theology has become a part of this desire.
The purpose of good theology
I started writing this article to make a point. My intentions weren’t to bless you with a knowledge of my life. Theology can be dangerous. If you’re just wanting to spend your career going to work and earning a living, this is not the field for you. Theology is used to save souls from eternal damnation. Not because theology saves. But because it points towards the cross. Good theology isn’t something you learn. It’s something you do.
If you’re not ready to have your life completely interfered with, you may want to take another look at the options. Theologians don’t deal with the thought of a layoff of pay decrease. They deal with the fact that souls are going to hell on a daily basis. Not always because a person does something wrong. Sometimes, they simply haven’t been taught any different. That is why we need theology. In order to better explain and describe our need for Christ.