Monday, August 6, 2018

My life verse

MY LIFE VERSE (Ps 119:173)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2018

May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
I do not recall precisely what compelled me to choose this particular passage as the verse on which I would base my life. I had recently come from a session with the minister of our church, having told him that I felt God wanted me to do more than just teach Sunday School. He asked me what I thought I should be doing. Since I was enjoying very much my most recent endeavor, I said "teaching." Then he expressed the news I dreaded most: "I think you'll have to go back to school."

I had already dropped out after one failed semester of college. Higher education was for smart people, not for me. Besides, I had a good job, was recently married, and just bought a house within a mile from my parents' home, the church, and both our places of work. The prospect of leaving all that did not thrill me. Moreover, a Bible college seemed to offer the only degree that would enable me to do what I thought I should: prepare for a career teaching Bible in secondary education, and there was no Bible college in our area.

I devoted three days to fasting, prayer, and study, the fruit of which was God's direction, leaving the decision up to me whether to stay or go—"You choose," He seemed to say—and pointed me to this verse.
May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts (Ps 119:173).
So, we packed the house, rented a truck, and moved from Long Island to South Carolina, where I would attend Columbia Bible College, still uncertain about how we would pay for this new adventure or even if I would be successful academically. After all, my previous attempt at college did not go well.

Linda got a job, though not as good as the one she had in New York. Still, she only worked for a year before starting school herself after we calculated that between the generous school policy that allowed the spouse of a full-time student to attend classes free, and our two federal grants, it was more economical for her to be a student than to work.

By my second year I was confident that I could succeed scholastically and already had my sights set on grad school. Eighteen years and five degrees later (a B.A., three M.A.s, and a Ph.D.), it was time to use all that training. Yet I did not enter academia as I thought I would. God had other plans for me. The interim pastorate I took after graduation was only supposed to be for three months, but it lasted three years. After that, I remained in the pulpit and did not enter the classroom.

Did my life verse fit my life? Indeed it did, even though my life did not turn out quite as I planned. It did turn out (and is still turning out) as God planned. While I enjoy teaching, the pastorate has allowed me to do some of that as well as providing the freedom to write about a variety of subjects that interest me rather than only subjects that are necessary for a job. Thanks to a good friend in Wisconsin who created a blog for me, my studies and sermons also have a wider audience than I might have garnered had I published as a teacher alone.

Looking back, I realize that God has always upheld His part of the equation: His hand has always been "ready to help me." Perhaps the most obvious expression of His aid is His placing beside me a wonderfully supportive helpmeet who has made possible whatever success I have achieved, both academically and professionally. My life would be infinitely poorer without Linda. As I look back, I also realize that God's word has always served to guide me in upholding my part of the equation: "for I have chosen Your precepts." The decision to heed His instruction pertains to many matters, from observing the Sabbath to maintaining our marriage, from adopting biblical dietary laws to our serving a particular congregation. In all these ways and more God has provided guidance in the optimum way to go, a way that is both eminently satisfying and eternally rewarding.

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Relevant and civil comments are welcome. Whether there will be any response depends on whether Dr. Manuel notices them and has the time and inclination to respond or, if not, whether I feel competent to do so.
Jim Skaggs