How I Ended Up At Southern Seminary, Pt. 2

Before you read this, make sure you read Part 1.

The next few days after not getting into Beeson were some of the hardest of my life. I cried more than I expected to. What had this done to me? I began to see what it means to have one of the greatest idols I had ripped from my fingers. God owed me nothing. He was teaching me the lesson of Proberbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” I had been so arrogant. Only a week before I had met President Mohler at Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, AL, and told him I would not be applying to Southern Seminary. I had better plans. What a fool I was!
As I contented myself with moping, certain that no one could comfort me, the Lord sent five people in my path. The first was a good friend of mine and one of the most encouraging believers I know: Garrett Walden. Garrett did two important things (which, hopefully, you will benefit from as you deal with people in extreme disappointment). First, Garrett turned me to the gospel. It may seem so strange to you since I am on the road to the pastorate, but I had a great deal of trouble preaching it to myself. He told me I could trust God not only because he is in control, but because he is good. He told me my approval and acceptance is in Christ, not in a letter of acceptance from a school. Then, he prayed for me. He didn’t give a short, trite prayer. He earnestly prayed for me that day and then continued to do so in the following days. I will never forget that.
The day after I spoke with Garrett, I went to discipleship with my pastor, Steve Scoggins. He prayed with me, just like Garrett. He hurt with me. Finally, he challenged me on some of my pride. Why was I so destroyed? Why had I not considered other schools?
“Are you going to be Southern Baptist?” he asked. Yes, I am.
“Are you going to turn into some Arminian?” he asked. No, I certainly am not.
“Do you love the church” he asked. He knew I did!

Pastor Steve Scoggins

“Do you really want to serve in the Convention one day?” Of course!
“Then go to Southern,” he told me. He helped me move through much of my strongheaded-ness that day. He explained to me that the SBC needs godly, Baptist trained men serving in its churches. He promised me I would get a superb, not merely passable, education at Southern. He comforted me. Again, the Lord was using another to soften my heart, bring me away from my pride, and teach me to trust Him.

The next person the Lord sent my way was the father of a friend of mine, a man named Bill Sanford. Long before, Bill had asked me to visit Southern Seminary with him. He told me he was a member of some foundation there and liked visiting. I had politely declined. After all, I had chosen where I was attending. Bill contacted me again with an offer to take me to Southern Seminary. This time I accepted. If he had not offered, I would not have visited. I did not have the money to drive 9 hours to visit a school I did not want to attend. What I did not know was what would come of this visit.

The next person that helped me was President Mohler. Down in the dumps, I sent a sad tweet in a weak moment. It follows:

Privilege? President Albert Mohler, privileged to welcome me? The seminary reject? What is this? I didn’t even expect him to respond. I regretted even sending the tweet in the midst of my pity part. Dr. Mohler was gracious, however, and encouraged me at a terrible time in my life. Not only that, after I got in he sent me this message:
A follow up tweet! From one of my heroes, at that! Why would he even take the time? I didn’t know. If nothing else, it made me happy to visit SBTS. If the people are this friendly, they are worth being around! 

Soon after, an Admissions Counselor at Southern Seminary by the name of Kody Gibson contacted me. Kody was friendly, helpful, and- providence!- had also considered going to the same school as I had and had a similar experience. He also pointed me to trust in Christ. Kody was there for me in every way possible, from being willing to just listen to me rant about how unhappy I was (How many admissions counselors at colleges/graduate schools will do that?) to praying for me. After the entire visit was set up, I got a confirmation email from Kody with my visit form attached.
You can’t see this picture to the right. If you can see the bottom line there, it reads as follows: “Kody filled this out. VIP student.”

I read it and started to tear up again. Before this all started, I didn’t know I was going to become a crier again. It had been a while since I had cried that much. Now, obviously, reading a form where you get called a VIP is a huge opportunity for sinful temptation to creep in. I could have become full of myself. I could have felt awesome about myself. Instead, it was simply a blessing from God. Sweet relief! They want me! At the end of the day, throughout the whole fiasco wherein I had been rejected, what hurt the worst was the feeling of rejection. I had been rejected and the only consolation for it was acceptance. Garrett pointed me to this first in the Gospel. Kody helped me feel it again academically. I was going to go to Seminary. I was not completely unwanted. I was not a total failure. How easy do we sinners turn from Christ! How gracious is He to turn us back and to put people in our lives for just that purpose!

Little did I know what this visit would be. When Kody found out on the phone what Bill had set up, he was shocked. “This is not normal,” he told me. I had no idea.

I graduated from Auburn University on May 7, 2012. The next day, I got in the car with my dad and Bill Sanford, and we headed to Louisville. My dad and Bill are in the same profession (Bill owns a construction company and my dad owns a tile company). As you know, the construction industry is not doing too hot right now. My dad and Bill hit it off and were able to be encouraged together from the start. I think they both needed that. If nothing else, that made the trip worth it.  I knew then that this was going to be a good weekend. I had no idea how good.

Over the span of 3 days I met with Dr. Ware and Dr. Coppenger for coffee, Dr. Russ Moore, and had dinner with two donors for a great dinner (they gave me their  card and told me to contact them if I need anything. I have since found this to have been an earnest offer). The next day I had lunch with Dr. Donald Whitney, as well as with the head of Admissions, Mr. John Powell, and he answered every question I could have possibly had about the school. I was able to tour President Mohler’s library and office, both of which were a truly special experience. Finally, I met with renowned historian Dr. Tom Nettles and the Dean of Boyce College, Dan DeWitt. With every single one of these meetings, I found the professors and staff to be genuinely caring and kind. There was not a single man who met with me because they had to. All of these men met with me because they wanted to. They were gracious and wise, each offering me a great deal of counsel. I came away impressed with how much they cared, not just about me, but also about my family, how courteous they were to my father and listened as he regaled old stories from his time at Southern Seminary.

The last night I was there, I came back from dinner and a familiar face drove by. He stopped the car and rolled down the window. I stood there dumbfounded, in shock for a moment, as President Mohler rolled down his window, and he and his wife, Mrs. Mary, greeted me. He looked tired.
“I just got back from CNN,” he said.
I said,”Oh. That’s cool,” showing my powerful command over the King’s English in a moment of pressure. He went on to welcome me to the school, and he asked me how the visit was going. I told him it was going wonderfully. He talked with us for about five minutes more and then departed to his home. It was very special for me. As I came to find out later, he had not been to CNN for any old taping. Pres. Obama had just given his support on TV to gay marriage rights, and Dr. Mohler was giving the Evangelical response. I watched it later. It was powerful, wise, and exactly what needed to be said. Surely, it was exhausting for him. Still, he stopped for us! Why had he done that? His windows were tinted. I didn’t know his car. He needed not stop and talk, but he did. President Mohler stopped and talked to a guy having one of the worst months of his life, because he is a good man. His seminary reflects this; every single person I met on the trip reflected this.

As I left lunch with Boyce Dean Dan DeWitt on Thursday, I headed to the housing office with my dad. I told him I didn’t need to see any more. This was it. One hundred dollars of college graduation money in my hand, I signed up for a dorm. I was in. Southern Seminary had charmed and enchanted me. The Lord has turned my heart back to trust him, and, more importantly, he gave me peace. I had no rest. Christ gave me rest.

As is the common refrain, I had no idea how good this was about to get. I was “in” for Southern Seminary. I was about to find out that Southern Seminary was “in” for me. My preview day visit was not a flash in the pan. The Lord was about to move mightily. The story was not yet complete.

Fin Part 2.

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