The first cairn in my life...
When I first attended seminary at the old Wake Forest Campus, I was blessed to attend on a scholarship I never really deserved. But that scholarship covered my tuition, room and board. I could have attended a graduate school otherwise—what a blessing from God!
But once I arrived I knew that I had to get a part-time job, and fast, to cover the expenses of operating my little car, paying insurance premiums, purchasing books and so on. Yet I soon discovered that all the seminarians were looking for part-time jobs. Try as I might, I could not find work-anywhere.
After a few weeks, I was despondent, out of money and feeling desperate. I took a long walk around the old “demon deacon” football stadium and I poured out my heart to God. I explained to Him that I had given it my best effort, no one would hire me, I was out of money and I could not see anyway out of this situation.
And so I told God that I would drop out of the graduate school, give up the scholarship, and attempt to get a job as a summer camp that I used to work at in Black Mountain, NC. I was told that previous summer counselors were able to work there for a few months to earn money by helping with grounds or light maintenance. Why not? I loved that camp and was not very ambitious at that point—-I was desperate.
And that’s the first time I ever heard God speak to me. It was just one word—-but so audible that I turned around to see if someone was talking to me. He said, “no”, with such clarity and authority that I stopped my walk, returned to my room and determined that I simply could not leave seminary now! I had heard Him speak to me—-no doubt about it.
He did not tell me what He was about to do or how I would make ends meet, but something within my spirit testified to me that “all is well now”. I rested that day and had no fears that His Hand was all over my issues. The source of peace was not that I had a job (I did not), I still had no money and had no idea how I was going to make it… but this incredible certainty that I was at the right place, doing the right thing and that He was wanting me to remain where I was gave me an inner calm that made me feel invulnerable and invincible. (That’s what happens when you hear Him speak to you.)
This all happened on a Monday. Tuesday morning I went to my Church History class with Dr. Glen Miller, and on the front door of the class were three sticky notes addressed to me. Each one reference a different church that had contacted me about being interviewed for a job as a Youth Pastor for their church. Within a week I accepted a job in very large Methodist church in Raleigh, where I served for almost four years. I never was never concerned about my finances again while in seminary. God was incredible good to me.
But three things were clear: He did not want me to leave seminary; He provided a far better job and salary than I was hoping for (He always does things better for me when I let go); my work at the Edenton Street Methodist Church prepared me for my ministry in summer camping.
I am glad He said “no”, I am glad I obeyed Him and I am glad to be able to look back at this event as confirmation that His hand was—-and still is—-upon me. This was my first “pile of rocks” to look back upon in my life.