I first became aware of this internal shift to consider Princeton Seminary with untethered gratitude when a young woman heading into her third year there came back to Dayton for the summer.
There’s a hardness to her now that didn’t used to be there, whether from her educational journey or from her own relational choices. Doesn’t really matter for my purposes here. I felt a twinge of sadness that my story-telling of Princeton had had its own edginess. “As balanced as I tried to be when she was discerning whether to choose Princeton or another seminary,” I remember saying, “I’m sure I spoke most of Princeton’s shortcomings, with very little of the depth of Spirit that found me there.” This young woman is completing her degree, getting “her driver’s license” to move into Christian ministry, without much open-hearted curiosity or language about All that is there, the unrelenting, Mysterious Holy… This sadness is the seed of today’s visceral body fondness, and now enough curiosity about it to write.
My first encounter with Princeton was on a Prospective-Students’ weekend in the spring of 1993. Someone from my church in Pasadena had put my name into Princeton's pool, because out of the blue, I received a letter of invitation to said weekend. All expenses paid—except the airfare to get there—with the allure of the Ivy-League institution desiring me. Of course I accepted immediately, not knowing to this day who set it in motion. It was incredible, even meeting a fellow (Mike Hegeman) who would become a dear friend, fellow singer in our a capella group Deo Gloria. My Midwestern sensibilities were awed by the old-money, Ivy-League contexts in which I was being treated like royalty.
But something deeper was Given me that weekend. I experienced myself in a way I had never known I could be…
Two years previously, I had left Carleton College convinced that I was stupid. I hadn’t found myself or my passion until spring of junior year, so I was never one who applied herself without reserve, never a straight-A student. I felt acute shame, and measured my worth as always less-than those around me. Some chemistry profs would speak directly to all the guys and never meet my glance as the only woman in the group. I had no consciousness-raising defenses to protect myself, so I considered myself untalented, not very smart.
Except this weekend at Princeton fell two years after charting a courageous path out to LA to teach at a girls’ school. I had learned to be an independent woman in a big city, with a deepening theological passion fed by increasing discipline. Spirit had placed me in strong women’s mentorships at my school and at a local church.
I nearly held court at the local Princeton pub, The Annex, directing our philosophical debates. I was secretly astounded at my confidence, mydesire to learn.
I first fell in love with myself that weekend, in Princeton.