WOOD FINISHES MDIV WITH
DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF FAITH
By Amber Mitchell
“It has been the most challenging and the most rewarding thing I have ever done,” is the answer that Tyler Wood gives when asked about his experience at Campbell University Divinity School. He has completed his class work and will graduate in May.
Tyler considers himself blessed to have grown up in a Christian home, with parents who were “always intentional about emphasizing the importance of family.” Tyler sees his adolescence and early adulthood as important years of preparation for where he is now and where he will go in the days to come.
Even in his first year of undergraduate studies at Barton College, he says, “It seemed that God knew what he was doing in leading me to each part of this journey. I began to sense that I was being prepared for something grand and this gave me hope.”
After transferring to Campbell to finish his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies, he began to consider overseas mission work as an option for the future. Then a “wise friend” as Tyler calls him, gave him a suggestion. Tyler says, “He asked about my plans after graduation, and I’m convinced from nothing short of the Holy Spirit, suggested that I consider applying for divinity school.” Tyler says that after the entrance interview with the divinity school staff he knew that “God had led me to Campbell Divinity School. Strange journey that it was, and I finally had a sense that I was where I needed to be.”
Tyler relates his childhood faith to a museum filled with beautiful “portraits” that he loved but never fully understood. He longed to find the end of the museum and the deeper things of his faith. For him, Campbell Divinity School, “flung open the doors,” of his “world of faith.” Of his first day as a Campbell Divinity student he says, “Little did I know that when I walked through those doors, I would be immersing myself in an entirely new world, one from which I could not return. This new world of faith brought to life those very portraits that I spent my life trying to understand and appreciate better. Indeed, what I know to be the reality of Christianity before divinity school was a minute, framed snapshot of the deeper reality that had existed all along.”
As a new student, Tyler enjoyed learning of the spiritual disciplines and the stages of faith. For him, these class discussions gave him reassurance. He says, “All my life I had been scared of my doubts and questions; I thought they indicated weak faith or lack of trust in God. Yet here was my first divinity school professor reassuring us that doubt is an integral part of growing as a Christian. The even better news was that on the other side of this doubt would come stronger faith!”
Tyler’s first semester of divinity school made him aware of his “love for learning” and his “appetite to know more.” Through his first New Testament class, “the scriptures took on a new meaning.” Because of the new way in which he was able to approach scripture he says, “I was able to appreciate the faith and the humanity of those in the Bible by learning about the context in which they lived and followed Christ.” Like many of the other classes that Tyler appreciates, he also fondly remembers the Christian Theology course in which he says, “My relationship with God and my perception of his being grew and strengthened; dots were finally being connected that formed a solid structure of the faith I had always known.” Of learning about the Trinity he recounts, “I will never forget driving home after the second week of class after a lecture on the Trinity and feeling overcome with wonder and awe at God.” Of learning about salvation he says, “Divinity school taught me that salvation, like discipleship, does not and should not look the same in every person. Rather, salvation means being healed, being freed, and becoming more fully who God created you to be.” Of Christian tradition he says that he was reminded that “I was not alone in this strange journey, nor was I the first to attempt it.” Of himself he says, “Every part of my life has been illuminated; I am a better son, brother, boyfriend, minister, student, friend, and disciple because of these classes.” As he reflects on his experience he says, “I often wonder who I would be at this point in my life had I not gone to divinity school and I cannot possibly imagine it.”
Tyler learned not only inside the classroom, but also outside of the classroom. Looking back on his time as a student he says, “Some of the very best friends I have, I found at Campbell. Some of the most life-changing lessons I have ever learned, I learned at Campbell. Some of the most faithful men and women I have ever tried to model my own faith after, they inspired me at Campbell.” Tyler holds a deep appreciation for the diversity that he has found at Campbell which he considers, “characteristic of God’s Kingdom.” Tyler says that the diversity of both the students and the professors has taught him to, “be sensitive, open-minded, and celebratory of others’ faith that may look different from my own.” He says further, “Such is the beauty of grace, that God meets us all where we are and guides us to where we need to be instead of forcing us to pick up a one-size-fits-all sort of faith.”
Now as Tyler graduates he is still excited because, “There is plenty left to explore!” As he seeks to be more like Christ, he is open to change and eager to continue learning. He says that he wants to be “intentional about continuing to read, write, stretch, and wrestle with theology after divinity school.” Looking ahead Tyler realizes that “The near future brings many big life decisions for me.” Whether pastoral work or mission work lies ahead of him he says, “Whatever role I take on, I mainly want to minister to God’s people. It is such a privilege and blessing for one’s life work to be encouraging and building up disciples; I cannot imagine doing anything different.”
Amber Mitchell is a Campbell University Divinity School student and graduate assistant in Church Relations.