As I look over the landscape of my life, my various degrees, accomplishments, moves, and so many other things, I constantly marvel at the timing and provision of things. If there is anything that can convince me that “God is in the details,” it’s doing a reality check to see everything that has “worked itself out” in my life over the past 40+ years.
When I was going into my senior year of high school, I got very sick. At first the doctors thought it was mono, but tests came back negative. After much searching, poking, and prodding, they discovered that I had pericarditis, an inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. It was viral, so it couldn’t be treated with antibiotics, so I had to wait it out. Not a very fun way to spend the summer, but I made the most of it and was better in time for school in the Fall.
I applied to one college for early acceptance and found out in December that I was accepted. I also found out that this school guaranteed a financial aid package that would work for every entering freshman. Somehow or another, I went through all four years of college with my dad’s meager salary, with my part-time jobs, and managed to have a fairly minimal student loan accumulation at the end. I paid it off in about 3 years and found out that the guaranteed financial aid package that my college had offered had started and ended with my class.
I graduated from college and got a job, a much easier task then than it is now. After a year, I went back and got my master’s degree, paid for in part by my employer. We were a small enough company that there were no major requirements for reimbursement. I just told the administrator how much I needed and she cut a check. No complications. No grades required. It was easy. I paid as I went and got my second degree debt-free, something that I didn’t fully appreciate until many years later.
I got married and my wife started her master’s degree in counseling. She was about halfway done when we up and moved to North Carolina. I was worried that a good portion of her work would be lost. We prayed about it. I did my research, and we found a school that would accept all of her credits. In fact, she got an additional 2 credits because 2 classes had been worth more at the new school than they had been at the old school. We paid for it as we went, again staying debt-free. I still don’t think I fully appreciated it.
I started thinking about seminary for myself before we left North Carolina and moved to Virginia, but it moved to the top of my priority list once we made that transition. I knew that there were a lot of things that I did not want to do or become when I finally started into seminary. One of the things that I committed to was not being gone from my family for 4 weeks a year, the plan that had been outlined for me by my school. So, I decided to take classes at a branch of my seminary that was located about 2 hours away to supplement my classes and ensure that I could finish my program in the allotted time without having to extend it.
This is where, as I look back retrospectively, that I see God’s hand moving the pieces in such a way that I could never have orchestrated on my own. I mostly took my biblical languages and Bible survey classes at this remote location. I started into Hebrew with a professor who was raised Jewish and had become a Christ follower. He brought a unique perspective to the classes and I appreciated having him throughout all of my Hebrew studies and for two out of three of my Old Testament survey classes. Right when I finished Hebrew, he finished teaching at the seminary and moved to the “left” coast. Very convenient timing for me.
I started into my Greek studies at the same location with a professor who I felt incredibly blessed to have had. He was a kind and humble man whose brilliance was masked by his overwhelming and charismatic personality. I took my Greek classes with him, even doing an independent study with him, and when I had finished my Greek studies, he also finished teaching at the seminary and relocated to the Twin Cities. Very convenient timing for me once again.
The missions committee at our church agree to help fund my seminary education, providing nearly half of the funds for my whole 4 ½ years. Between that financial help as well as the scholarships that I was able to obtain through the school, I was able to complete my seminary education with no debt as well. I was amazed as I looked back and saw that between my wife and I we had 5 degrees collectively which were 100% paid for.
I say all of this not to gloat or boast at all, but to give glory to God for his provision. I replay these events in my mind over and over again as a reminder of all that has been accomplished for me. I’m not trying to promote a “name it and claim it” theology, but I am grateful that in the midst of everything that happens in our world, God saw fit to allow for me to go through this journey with assistance in so many ways. I am grateful that my struggles were limited because of these provisions (that’s not to say that my struggles were limited, because I certainly had my share of other struggles).
Over and over in the Old Testament, we see God’s people on a journey. Along that journey, they would set up reminders of God’s provision to them, they would remind themselves that in the midst of dire and dark circumstances, he had managed to provide for their needs. I’ve tried to set up similar reminders, remembering that in the midst of storms and valleys, God did not abandon me but was there with me, lightening the load, providing things that I couldn’t, and helping me to know that in the midst of a great big world, he still knew the number of hairs on my head and cared even for me.