The last paper is graded; the semester is over. That’s a good feeling. Breaks are always welcome, but I truly do live for the teaching ministry God has given me. I love the beginning of a school year, and there’s always something special about commencements.
This is Southeastern’s commencement this year; it occurred last Friday. For the first time we had to rent a larger facility to hold everyone. I’m on the stage in the distance, but don’t bother trying to find me. I’m a speck. Kind of provides some perspective. None of us are really that big and important, yet to God we were important enough for Him to come to earth in human form and die—that we might be united with Him. Astounding, really.
Teaching the students God gives me is normally not a chore, but a blessing, an opportunity. On days like today, when I can put another semester behind me, I sometimes reflect on the past twenty-two years as a professor. There have been some very bad times along the way, but not usually with the students. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve rejoiced that I have been entrusted with some part of their education.
Fulltime teaching started in 1989 at Indiana Wesleyan University. I had just earned my doctorate and was excited to be a new Ph.D. in my first faculty assignment. It also brought me back home to the Indiana where I had spent the first twenty-two years of my life. One year I was honored by the students voting me Professor of the Year, but what meant even more to me were the evenings when 20-30 of those students would come over to the house for the Snyder Institute for Advanced Conservative and Theological Studies. Yes, it sounds a little corny, but it was great.
Five years after my initiation as a professor, I moved to Virginia to take on a new responsibility, one that was even more enticing to me since it meant teaching at the graduate level. Regent University, in Virginia Beach, was my home for the next seven years. I have to admit that showing up for work each day at the building you see in this picture was, as students are inclined to say today, “totally awesome.”
Yet it wasn’t just the physical surroundings that made this time special. Again, it was the students. They came eager to be trained to go out into the government or into the private sector to influence government policy. The fond memories of those years will never recede.
Beginning in 2001, in the same month that my book on the Clinton impeachment was published, I took on a new task, teaching American history at Patrick Henry College. Once again, solid relationships were established with students, most of whom had been homeschooled for a significant portion of their lives. They were focused; they felt called by God. I’ll always remember being called to the front after chapel one day and being presented with the complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes, paid for by a collection taken up by the students. I wonder why they thought I would like that? Am I really someone who likes cartoons?
I’m sixty now. I’m taking the summer off from the classroom to spend more time with my wife who is undergoing chemotherapy to attack a very threatening cancer. At sixty, that’s what I want to do. I’m reminded of just how temporary this timeline is.
But the timeline that really matters is eternal. One of the nicest things about that eternal timeline is that we will spend it in His presence, and we’ll be sharing it with others who have chosen to be in His presence also. Many of those will be my former students. What began in this life continues in the next.
As the apostle John in the book of Revelation disclosed:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away. … And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
All that I’ve experienced in this life, even the teaching ministry God has given me, has been a preparation for what is to come. He is the One who infuses what I do with meaning. Without Him, nothing I do has any value. I thank God for allowing me to carry out a part of His valuable work in this world.