By Alie Benge
Welcome to the first in a new series. Over the course of a few posts we’re interviewing people who’ve done a diploma at Bible College and why they took a year out of their lives to study the bible. First up, it’s me!
When and what did you study:
I think it was 2010. I did the Dip of Bible and Missions at Moore College.
What were you doing before your study?
I had spent a strange few years in the army.
What led to your decision to study?
I’ll admit, my motives were not so virtuous. I wanted to go to uni but found I’d left if too late and was suddenly a mature age student. I needed a diploma to get in and Moore had the shortest one on offer. That being said, there was a part of me that knew I didn’t understand my own faith and I didn’t have the mental tools to sort it out, or even be able to tell what it was that I didn’t know. I felt like it was too late to ask, otherwise I could have got a diploma in floristry or something. I also think God’s guiding had more to do with it than anything else. I’d been hiding in the dark and he said ‘it’s time to come out now.’
How did people react when you decided to enrol for a year?
I don’t remember that many reactions. I expect my parents were relieved. My pastor refused to write me a reference unless I read Basic Christianity and joined a life group – understandably, not that I read it. My army friends made jokes about virgins.
My life has always been a bit ‘what will I do this year?’ so the fact that I was once again uprooting myself to do something completely different didn’t come as a surprise to that many.
What did you have to give up?
In terms of actual things, nothing that I missed very much. It was a major lifestyle change, but at that stage in my life, change was the only constant. The things I gave up throughout the year were more significant. I had to give up drinking as a social crutch, using attention from boys as a source of affirmation, being a loud mouth, being mean to make people laugh. I don’t know how successfully I let go of those things during the year. Realising those traits didn’t fit socially was the catalyst for their excision, but I didn’t finally shrug them off until awhile after college. There were things I gave up that were less positive, like being comfortable with my own personality when being myself would have been totally inappropriate for the social setting. I learned quickly how to talk like a Moore student. I wanted to fit in, so I guess I gave up my sense of myself. It wasn’t something I ‘had’ to give up, but at that age it was much more important to me that I be accepted. On the first day, we were leaving a pub and Gibbo sidled up to me and said, ‘don’t feel like you need to change for other people just because you’ve had a slightly different background.’ I didn’t understand what he meant at first, mainly because I thought, ‘surely he couldn’t have read me that quickly’. Of course changing for other people was exactly what I planned on doing. I’ve had to spend a bit of time reconnecting to myself. The sudden shifts from the army, to Moore and the Anglican diocese, to a charismatic church in New Zealand means that I have hangovers from three very different ideologies. This forced me to return to the bible with my academic hat on, in my own space, and work out what I actually believe and what my identity is. This sounds very narcissistic of course, but a journey of self isn’t self-centred if it’s Christ-centred.
How did your time studying the word change you?
I became a Christian for starters. I suppose in a way I’d always been one, but it was in a doctrine lecture that I understood Jesus’ death and resurrection as the how and why of my faith – rather than something that happened in the peripherals. I’d previously thought being a Christian meant believing in the existence of God and couldn’t work out what I was missing. I spent the first half of the year wondering if it was too late to ask someone to explain the gospel to me.
What would you have done differently on reflection?
If my motives had been pure I would have waited. I was 20 when I did my diploma, and not one of those mature 20 year olds. I was five or six years younger than a lot of the people I was hanging out with. I must have been so annoying. I don’t know why anyone put up with me but I’m very glad they did. I didn’t understand many of the lectures either. I’d spent three years in the army being trained not to think, now I was in one of the most academic bible colleges wondering what was going on. Most of what I learned was from the social setting, and from conversations with amazing people. I still have no idea what redaction criticism is.