Sharon and I drove by ourselves the long drive from Raleigh to Dallas. I drove the U Haul truck with our stuff. She drove her car.
This was before the days of cell phones. So, we had to watch each other. Carefully.
We were to meet a DTS couple who had volunteered to host us for our first week in Dallas. They said to take Hwy 80 west, and then we were to take I-35 E north, I think. Somehow, we got lost and ended up in a very dodgy neighborhood far from downtown Dallas. We got out at a convenience store that had a pay phone.
We got back on the road and finally found their apartment. Sharon and I were shell-shocked, and we hadn’t even settled in yet.
I was to take first-year Greek in summer school, starting in late May. So, we didn’t have long to settle in.
For me, things were very busy. Back then the Th.M. program at my alma mater was like going to medical school. Many of the guys would study 50 or more hours a week, be in class 15 hours a week, in chapel 3 hours, and work 40 hours a week. That is crazy.
I was fortunate in that we kept about half of our supporters from our days with Campus Crusade for Christ. So, I was able to limit my work to ten hours of campus ministry at SMU.
I was lucky in that the studies came easier to me than for many guys. I was in class and chapel about 18 hours a week. But I “only studied” about 20-25 hours a week (except when big papers were due, and then I might study for 40 hours in one week). Pretty much I was able to get most of my studying done before I left for home at 5pm each night.
During and right after my first year, three seminary couples that Sharon and I had come to know got divorced.
While all three divorces shocked us, I remember being especially surprised that a fourth-year seminary student majoring in Greek would leave his wife who was nine months pregnant and move in with another woman. Really? I knew a Christian might fall and act in these ways. I was a Free Grace guy even then. But I was surprised that committed seminarians would give up so easily on their marriages and their ministries.
I had mediocre grades in high school. My college grades were better, a 3.3 GPA. But still those weren’t too good.
After summer school and my first two semesters in seminary, my grades were very good. This surprised me.
I hadn’t known what to expect. But I figured I’d have a GPA like the one I had in college. After all, there were a lot of very sharp people at DTS. But for some reason, I was in my element. Even Greek came fairly easily to me. I had feared Greek and Hebrew. Yet I excelled in those subjects.
At the end of my first year I began to think about the possibility of teaching. Might it be possible that I could teach at the seminary when I graduated? It became a dream of mine. (God had other plans, namely, Grace Evangelical Society! But I would not have that idea for another six years.)
I was surprised by how much I learned that first year. I came in thinking I was fairly well grounded in the Christian faith. I realized after year one how much I still had to learn. In many ways my first year was a wake-up call. I now had a burning desire to learn more. If my worldview had changed significantly for the better in just one year at seminary, what might happen after three more years?
By the end of my first year I had come to believe in the Judgment Seat of Christ and eternal rewards. I had written an exegetical paper on 1 Cor 9:24-27, and it really impacted me. I had not believed in the Bema or eternal rewards before that time.
The doctrine of assurance had been what led me to faith in Christ, and it was central to my Christian life. But I found out in my first year in seminary that some of the professors were teaching that we had to look at our works to see if we really believed. Friends came to me fearful that they might not be truly born again. I remember counseling them that the professor was clearly wrong. We have assurance because we believe the simple promise of Eph 2:8-9 or John 3:16, not because of our works.
I discovered in that first year that some students bought into whatever the faculty said. While I was certainly open, there were non-negotiable issues for me like assurance in the promise of everlasting life.
I was truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness. The next year would really rock my boat in a good way when I took a class on the Book of Hebrews by a man with a strange name, Zane Hodges.
*This blog is from a possible autobiography I’m writing.