While Ken is reminiscing, I will too. It is what one does on 60th birthdays and two decade anniversaries.
How well I recall the summer 25 years ago last month when Ken and I traveled from our home in southeast Missouri to Wake Forest, NC to visit the campus of Southeastern Seminary. We had spent the past 10 years planting a church in my home town, merging with an established church and watching God do an amazing work in us and our community. But there had been a growing desire in Ken’s heart to pursue seminary and a growing confidence in my heart that that is exactly what God was calling us to do. So these two Ozark hillbillies and their two young children “loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly” (or in our case, Wake Forest, NC) If you are under 30 and don’t get that reference, ask someone over 30.
Anyone who leaves their job, home, and family to attend seminary has a story to tell. The process of leaving the familiar to serve God in a new way is a challenging, even frightening step of faith. We came to SEBTS with no job prospects, a small stash of money to get us through the first weeks, and the belief that we were following God’s call on our life. The best thing we had going for us (besides the grace and mercy of God) was my surprisingly strong opinion that this new direction was a “God thing”. So the wife was completely on board. Then there was the fact that every time Ken stepped on campus at SEBTS he was like a kid in a candy story! Yes, I married the class nerd – the guy who loves books and learning and study so much that even today in his downtime he pulls out a math book to do problems “for fun”.
Fast forward four years, a few miracles and answers to prayer later, and we were in the throes of determining what God would have us do now that we were in the ABD (all but dissertation) stage of this journey. Should Ken pastor full time and teach adjunctively? Should he take a full time teaching position and pastor part time? Or would the Lord send us to the foreign field?
The weight that tipped the scale in the direction of teaching was the opportunity that came to join the faculty at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO in August, 1998. We had begun to realize that teaching at an SBC seminary was an opportunity few are given – and that going through the academic door would not necessarily close the doors to other areas of ministry. So, we loaded the truck and moved to Kansas City (Ken told about his first day on the job in his previous post). After graduating with his PhD in 2000, we loaded the truck AGAIN to follow the call to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (not an easy move, but that’s a story for another day). Ken taught at NOBTS for nearly six years before Hurricane Katrina blew us back to Wake Forest in 2006.
I just finished a book by Jen Pollock Michel called Teach us to Want: Longing, ambition and the life of Faith”. She said, “God may not give us the life we want or expect–and this can still be called good. He will force necessary revisions on our desires, especially through our experiences of disappointment and loss. This will seem painful. It will expose our myths of self-sovereignty. It will wrestle our will for control. But it will also oblige us to trust–and trust welcomes us into a greater inheritance.” I can testify to the truth of that statement.
Are you in a time of transition? Did you just arrive at seminary and are wondering where God will send you? Do you feel the call to leave your comfort zone and step out in faith to serve him in new territory? My advice? Say “yes, Lord, yes, to your will and to your way”.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.” Prov 3:5-6