Wendy and I have some big changes coming; but to understand where we are going you have to understand where we have been.
Envelopes on My Desk
They had been piling up for weeks. Each time a new one came in I would simply set it on top of the stack. Some were big fat envelopes, some were small thin ones. I didn’t care. They all went unopened. After a little over a month there must have been fifteen of them in the pile. Like a toddler building a castle out of his oatmeal, I was starting to take great pride in the mess I was making.
Truth is, no one had noticed the pile but me. My and Phil’s room was a complete disaster. We were total slobs. Clothes were everywhere. Sheets on the home made bunk beds hadn’t been changed in…well…I’m not sure they had ever been changed. The room smelled of pizza hut (where Phil worked), mildew, and arousal deodorant (whenever the smell became to over powering Phil would simply spray his deodorant into the room…problem solved). My desk was a chaotic collage of notes from Human Physiology, Chem Lab, and work. Somewhere in the midst of the mess was my computer. And there on the edge was the stack. The Truett Seminary logo could be seen clearly at the top left hand corner of each envelop. I remember every time I glanced at the stack thinking, “That’s right! You can just sit there.” It was my way of keeping the facade of control as my life seemed to be traveling in unapproved directions.
I wasn’t sure how Truett had gotten my name. I assumed it was because I was working at a church.
Almost two months before I had gone to lunch with Kyle Dunn at Tony Roma’s. Kyle was the new college pastor at Highland (the church I had been attending for all four years of college). He asked me to lunch to offer me a job as his intern for the summer. I had been planning on a long summer in the library studying for the MCAT and was excited about the time alone with my text books. I only went to lunch because I loved hanging out with Kyle and Wendy told me I needed to hear him out. I had no intention of giving his offer any real consideration. Then Kyle said the magic words. He got me with a simply phrase. As we munched on onion rings he said, “You say you want to be a doctor because you love people and want to help; but I think you are called to ministry and will have more opportunity to love people and help them more as a pastor.” With that the Holy Spirit whacked me upside the head.
After a frustrating week of prayer, fasting, and talking things over with Wendy, I walked three blocks down the road to the bench my father and I sat on almost five years early. I sat there in silence for a while. Then I started to weep. Part of it was that I was still struggling with Dad’s death; but most of my tears flowed because I realized the course of my life was about to make a major shift. It was a shift I hadn’t expected or wanted. A shift I felt completely unprepared for and was terrified of.
I went to work for Kyle a few weeks later after finals were over. The job was simple: set up the chairs before the weekly Bible Study, stack them up when it ended, and hang out with Kyle once a week. I begrudgingly loved every minute.
My refusal to open the stack of letters on my desk was pure passive-aggressive rebellion. I was sure Kyle had given Truett my name. There was no way I was opening those envelopes. That might lead to applying to go there for school. Which in turn might lead to me actually going there instead of medical school. Which then would lead me to becoming a pastor instead of a doctor. Unacceptable! As far as I was concerned the stupid letters could sit there until they disintegrated from natural decay.
One afternoon Wendy decided to wade through the mess and uncover my computer so she could check her email. I was laying on the bottom bunk reading, trying not to let on how embarrassed I was by the pig sty I lived in.
“What are all these?” she said thumbing through the stack.
“Oh, there just applications and promotional stuff,” I replied not looking up from my book.
“You haven’t even opened them?” she said baffled by my behavior.
“They’re just applications. I opened the first one. Stupid school. I didn’t fill it out. You think they would get the hint.”
Then I heard her tearing open the envelop on top. I refused to look up from my book. She tore open another one, then another, then another.
“You really haven’t opened any of these?” she said amazed.
“No. What’s the point? They’re just applications.”
“Sometimes Elkins…they aren’t applications.” She paused for a moment waiting for me to look up from my book. I put it down and sat up in bed to face her. “They’re scholarship letters. They are offering you a full ride.” She started crying and said playfully as she still often does, “What’s wrong with you?”
I had never applied for a scholarship. I had never even given Truett my name. (I later found out Ray Wright, one of the directors at the BSM was responsible.) Although it wasn’t as fantastic as a burning bush or a vision of God on His throne, it was enough for us. The Holy Spirit had our attention. The stack of unrequested letters was our own small sign. I had massive doubts and was completely unsure of the steps we were taking; but Spirit reminded me again and again for the remainder of the summer, “This is how I want you to love people.” So I accept the scholarship, registered for my first seminary class, and closed my eyes and fearfully stepped off the cliff into a life of professional ministry.