confess that some aspects of education have always come easy to me, at least until college. I remember doing well on spelling tests and math drills in the early days of education. I remember making the honor roll in high school while not really managing my time as well as I should have, especially since I had a myriad of other activities occupying my time in ways that sometimes overshadowed my study time. I remember college being a wake-up call for me in regard to time management: My extremely extroverted personality found more interactive ways to occupy my time than by simply sitting for hours in a library preparing for an exam. This almost did serious damage to my college career, but by God’s grace, I was able to graduate. Then, something even more miraculous happened. My path toward law school changed. This path was part of an interest I had since my childhood years watching my father, a police chief in a small Texas town, enforce the law. Even though I felt a strong call from God into ministry when I was about 16, I convinced myself that God would be satisfied if I ministered through the law, serving churches as an active participant. However, toward the end of my college years, I became more miserable, even as I adjusted to the discipline and demands required to get through college.
The summer before my senior year of college, my pastor called my girlfriend (soon to be my wife) and me into his office: “The board and I have been praying about someone to help on staff part-time, and your name has come up,” he announced. Edna, my bride-to-be, looked and me and said, “That’s why you’ve been so miserable!” It dawned on her and on me at the same time that I had indeed been running from a vocational call to ministry.
My law school plans changed to seminary plans, and that is when education became a passion for me. Despite my personality, God instilled a fervor within me to further my education while I served kind and encouraging people as a youth pastor and then a few years later as a senior pastor, newly married and new to seminary. The insights from my formal academic studies challenged me and gave me a stronger sense of direction in my calling. Serving as a pastor while also pursuing a seminary to degree helped me to filter, apply, and reflect upon what I was learning in real life. Even better, God provided mentors—men and women in the classroom and outside the classroom. These were people about whom I could say, “When I grow up, I want to be more like them!” These examples, along with my classroom experience, helped keep me in the ministry.
More than 25 years have passed since that conversation in my pastor’s office on a Wednesday night. I have finished three degrees since then, but the best part of my education has been the way the Holy Spirit has translated all of that course work in the context of the community of faith, under the direction of mentors and colleagues who are part of this wonderful and diverse tapestry called the kingdom of God.