When the director of ER wants you to hone in on a character’s facial expression, s/he uses this camera technique that always makes me a little sea-sick. The room spins and shakes, but the actor stands statue-still. I had a film person name the technique for me years ago, and I promptly forgot it. But I’ve had a lot of those room-spinning moments as of late (but in real life), and I get the same intensely queasy feeling.
This has been a very, very sentimental year. And I didn’t even know it would be sentimental until months later. But my heart is warmed that God anticipated my need for sweet memories, for room-shakingly intense snapshots of life.
I had the opportunity to sit in an American Public Address class again under my dear teacher, DeWitt Jones. Granted, I was sitting in as his supervisor for a teaching evaluation, but it didn’t feel like that in the least. It felt like I was 21 again, hearing about FDR with the same energy and enthusiasm that wooed me into the discipline as an undergraduate. Taking that class with him cemented my decision to pursue rhetorical studies.
Looking back now, I realize why I fell in love with Bob Jones University. The faculty. All the students at BJU speak with great honor of their teachers. A few years ago — the first year, in fact, I wore my doctoral regalia — I marched into the Commencement exercises with another favorite teacher from my undergrad years, Ed Panosian — a giant of a man who taught me History of Civ and Ancient Philosophy. He was a real cut-up, too, during that exceptionally formal proceeding. His wife, Betty, was my office mate for a brief time and is another teacher I admire. But it’s her sense of humor that still makes me laugh out loud. “Oh, some of those WCTU speeches would drive you to drink!”
I could never name all the teachers that I treasure, and I could never list how I use their lessons daily. Karen Pine taught me outlining. Ray St. John taught me essay writing. Elizabeth Edwards, interpretation. David Burke, persuasion. Ron Horton, precision. DeWitt Jones, argument. Joyce Parks, audience analysis. Lonnie Polson, problem solving. And I also had the rare blessing of calling those teachers my colleagues and my friends. Even if we’re talking about black spot on our roses or Russian gypsies over cold cuts or sharing verses through tears, I cherish those conversations and I pray we have many more in the future.
This past Spring I also had the opportunity to teach my favorite section yet in a series we started years ago under the course title, Seminar in Public Address. We started with Jonathan Edwards, then moved to George Whitefield, Charles Finney, and Dwight Moody. The final class, little did I know at the time, was this past spring, and we discussed “The Fourth Great Awakening.” Covering the current rhetoric of Evangelicals, Pentecostals, our own Fundamentalists, and even emerging voices, it was our chance to imagine what the next Great Awakening might look like. The topic was exhiliarating to me, but I am more thankful for those dear students. They were such a constant encouragment. I don’t know if the students know how much a blessing they are. I know we don’t tell them enough.
One of the students from that class was walking with my husband and me to Commencement this last Spring, and the school’s photographers snapped a picture. There we are up there (and I got the wrong color hood!). When she first showed me the picture, I made some goofy comment about it being an interesting “bookend” with the other picture from 17 years ago. I didn’t even know then that we were seeing our last Commencement or how prophetic that careless comment would be.
I said this first on a more public blog to further introduce myself there. And also to question the so-called denomination-splintering debates we Protestants “enjoy.” As much as our recent life change has been characterized as motivated by a drastic change in our theology, that’s not what started it. It got started in the same lessons I learned in those wrapped-in-love lectures, and it continued in order to encourage the same students I left behind. So it’s not a break or a change really at all. It’s the same journey.
We’re still very, very close to our exit from Bob Jones University. The room is still spinning in many ways. But my professional and personal life is knitted to those people, and I wanted to say how much publicly. God’s people are there. I’ll always be thankful for them. And I’m praying for them daily, even during this exceptionally busy week for them.