I’m sitting in the sprawling Honeycutt Center on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s around 11:30pm Eastern Time, the majestic campus has been hushed by nightfall, and the crickets have picked up where the cicadas left off. This is my first post from “Loua-vull,” and if this new Ph.D. program doesn’t eat me alive, it might not be my last.
On Saturday morning I left my wife and son in Tulsa, Oklahoma and made the long drive to Louisville alone. For some unplanned reason, crossing the Ohio River into the heart of the city right at dusk brought to mind the Israelites crossing the Jordan, eyes wide open and full of wonderings at this new place that I all of a sudden call home.
I pulled into the main parking lot and settled into a spot just a stone’s throw from the Legacy Hotel, Southern’s shiny new digs for visitors who want to stay right on campus. Susan at the front desk was kind enough to give me a key and directions over to the Fuller building where I’ll be staying for a bit. I wandered over and slowly made my way through the still, quiet, lonely hallways up to my one-bedroom apartment on the third-floor. We’re in the process of buying a house in east Louisville, so we’re braving a couple weeks of family separation while we wait (Lord-willing) for closing.
Sunday involved visiting a wonderful little fellowship called Baxter Avenue Church close to downtown, having lunch with old friends who have been overly kind and helpful during the transition, and running a bunch of errands to get ready for new beginnings and two weeks alone. (On a sidenote, the people who’ve been most warm and helpful to us during this time of change have taught me something: There’s a big difference between saying, “Let me know if you need anything,” and “Come on over for lunch today.” It’s not that the first is wrong or unkind. It’s just that the second is more aggressively hospitable.)
Then came today. Today was my first day at my new job as the Director of Student Life Programs at Boyce College, the undergraduate ministry training school on the campus of Southern Seminary. It’s a brand new position working with students and councils and departments that are undergoing lots of changes themselves. I really didn’t know what to expect, besides hearing phrases like “You have a blank slate” and “It will be an adjustment for the students” and “Just come in and watch and learn.”
With so many unknowns and uncertainties threatening to morph into anxiety, I spent last night in Psalm 127:1 before pillowing my head, and woke up this morning to a sweet re-reading of Paul’s prison-penned letter to the Philippians. The whole letter is gold, but in seasons of uncertainty, apprehension, and the discontentment that attends the unstilled soul, chapter four is an especially powerful balm.
In short, the day was a huge blessing. I met lots of kind people, saw my new office, got a rundown of the remarkable benefits program at Southern, and got the providential and unexpected opportunity to hang out for an extended time with the Student Council President, the main student I’ll be working with this year. So another day of God’s faithfulness strengthens me for the unknowns of tomorrow when I will leave for a two-day retreat with the college’s student leadership, once again stepping into all the uncertainties and unpredictabilities that hover around the new kid on the block.
Soon I’ll pack up my laptop and make the slow, peaceful walk back to Fuller Hall beneath the midnight moon, slowly turning my head in every direction to see the stately buildings with their southern red brick with presidential white trim, memorials to an age gone by and signs (for me) of a season to come.
Yet somehow, in the midst of the calm, dark quiet of early morning, the burnished white clocktower of Norton Hall and the glazed steeple of Broadus Chapel and the towering pillars of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library never seem completely quiet. They seem to whisper, softly, that they are watching, watching over the campus, and the students, and perhaps even the truth.
But the truth is greater still: The Lord is watching over this city, and this seminary, and this little life, so while I don’t know what will come tomorrow, I know that each day, and each effort, cannot be in vain (Psalm 127:1).