Friday, December 15, 2006

Please Forgive a Little Reminiscing (and Thanksgiving)

Not quite nine years ago I went skiing at Cascade Mountain in Portage, Wisconsin, with three guys--Paul, Steve, and Titus. Paul and I were in our first year of grad school at Maranatha, and Steve and Titus (whom I barely knew at the time) were juniors or so in the undergrad biblical studies program. The details of that evening are still a little fuzzy since I whacked my head pretty good on a mogul (it was in the shadows), but I'm pretty sure back then that Steve and Titus were set on heading to seminary eventually, and Paul and I were desiring vocational ministry but not yet too sure how it was all going to come together.

Two or three years later, Paul had started his MDiv at Central in Minneapolis, Steve and his wife were in China, and we had all completely lost track of Titus. About that time, I made plans to head to Central myself, and I thought Steve would be there in a year or so.

Things changed for me when the opportunity arose to join the staff of a North Carolina Bible curriculum publisher, about an hour from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I had virtually no knowledge of the institution, but three or four older and wiser people in my life knew enough to say it seemed like a good option for my situation.

I entered the Southern Baptist world one Tuesday evening in August for a class in church history, and I have to admit that I felt a little anxiety, having no idea what I was getting into. To make matters worse, I showed up later than I intended and really had to hoof it to class. As I used my best trans-BJU-campus walk-run gait to head toward the Binkley Chapel basement, I passed another guy casually strolling along, furtively made eye contact with him, and gave him the standard "how ya' doin' " nod. Then I did a double-take, because the very first fellow-student I had spoken to on campus was that very same long-lost Titus we'd gone skiing with years before. He was heading to the same class, so we grabbed seats in the back of the large hall and probably spent more time that evening catching up than listening to the syllabus lecture. (I think Dr. Hogg forgave us.)

I can't give Titus enough credit for helping me adjust to a world I knew nothing about and for giving me the inside scoop by telling me which classes and teachers I had to take and, well, you can guess the rest. Since I commuted from an hour away, I never really infiltrated the campus culture, so he was my eyes and ears.

Titus graduated three semesters later, but I think it was the next semester that Steve (also from the ski trip) and his wife transferred into SEBTS from another program. By that time I was getting to the point in my program when I could pick off some choice elective classes, and he and I shared several of them. Some of them were tremendously formative, and Steve's presence was another great gift to me since we could compare notes from our similar educational background and talk about how what we were learning fit with what we had learned at Maranatha.

Today, as providence would have it, Steve and I walked across the platform during the commencement ceremony at SEBTS with just one other MDiv grad between us.

Tonight, my heart is full. I don't know exactly what to make of the strange "coincidence" that two of the three guys I went skiing with in 1998 were used by God to sharpen me and make my seminary education immeasurably more valuable than it otherwise would have been. Perhaps the skiing thing is completely irrelevant to the rest of the story, but it's a little spooky that those two guys formed the bookends of my seminary career, and I've talked to Paul a couple times today.

Regardless of all that, it's simply inescapable to me that God has poured out his grace on me once again. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. If I were a poet, I might call it something like "the lead of love."

And if that's not enough, I'm also grateful for Dr. Akin's charge to the grads from Psalm 23. One of the marks of a great preacher is the ability to get to the heart of a familiar text in a way that's entirely fresh. You can listen to it for yourself here.

P.S. For the two of you who (pretend to) care, I'll post a photo or two here in a couple days.

UPDATE: Just posted a photo with my sister, niece, and nephew. I think he was still afraid of the man in the black dress and the weird cap at this point. Hopefully I'll get one with Steve and Jason soon too.


Dave said...

Congrats on your graduation.

G-Harmony said...

Way to go, Ben!

PinkAngel said...

Congratulations, Ben! Mom and I are thrilled that we were able to see you graduate. We love you. Andy says "Congrats", too!

Bruce McKanna said...

Well done, Ben. We're praying Proverbs 3:5-6 and Joshua 1:8 for you.

What were those "tremendously formative" classes and/or professors, if I may ask?

greg456 said...

Hey, congratulations Ben. Like I've said, I'll take one of your Master's now, since you have a spare. That and a TNIV will do just fine for Christmas.

Ryan Martin said...

Congratulations, Ben.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Ben, look forward to seeing you in DC in a couple weeks as you begin the next step on your journey!


Ben said...

Thanks everybody. PA, don't forget to send the pictures. Everybody wants to see your children.


The ones I had in mind were OT Theology and Hebrew Exegesis of Genesis with John Sailhamer. Historical Theology was another terrific class we shared, but it wasn't formative to the same degree..

buckeyejosh said...

You da man!!!

Look forward to seeing you here in DC soon, old friend!

Anonymous said...

aww!! get me all teared up at work this afternoon...I have great memories of college, but those 3 years after, really gave me a wonderfully godly group of friends. oh to have teleportation powers. congrats, miss you and may you continue to grow in DC.

Ben said...

Stink, I think it had been a while since I made a girl cry . . .

Paul said...

After your nasty (yet highly entertaining spill) I am suprised you actually remember who you were with on that ski trip!

I rejoice with you in God's providential leading and join you in looking forward with joyful hope. We are truly blessed.

joy mccarnan | said...

nice, ben. i'm glad for you. and it's good to see a photo of some family members, too. =}

Kris Cross Coffee said...

Hey! Congrats again...we're still experiencing the "glow" of finishing. I have that pic of you and Steve and Jason...where do I send? Email me again so I have your addy.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that even though the events of the ski trip were "fuzzy" you seem to remember that the mogul was in a shadow. I think Titus and Paul would agree with me that the only shadow that night was the one that covered your memory. If only my best memory was as sharp as your "fuzzy" memory.

It really was a joy and grace to go to school with you and to graduate together. To the degree that Titus was able to help you, you certainly helped me when I arrived. God's grace is abundant! Thanks Ben and Congradulations!

Steve Perdue

Ben said...


Things were fuzzy after the accident. I remember the fall pretty clearly.

Congratulations to you too. Many thanks to you and Matt for guiding ME down the right path on that class choice for this past semester! I would be soooooo kicking myself.