Good Morning, Dr. Toussaint
It started this morning when Janet advised me that we are going to have tile work done in our master shower so I would have to plan on taking over the basement shower until further notice. Normally, I like this kind of information in advance, but I really love the downstairs bathroom; especially the large walk-in shower designed and built by my dear friend, Steve Smith – make that Dr. Steven L. Smith. So it didn’t bother me at all to move my stuff downstairs. And as soon as I turned the water on, I started reminiscing about how the bathroom came to be.
To be sure, we took on the project for a couple of strange reasons. First of all, when Jill, Tom and Drew visit from Oklahoma, they really enjoy staying in the basement where they can all spread out. But without a full bath down there, it was tough for them. So, initially, that became the driver for the construction work. But then, another thing occurred. An unfortunate event in Steve’s life – the untimely death of his wife, Tenara. She suffered from a rare neurological disorder that eventually claimed her life, while she was still in her forties. Steve was devastated, as any husband who dearly loved his wife would be.
And after the funeral, Steve, who had built his own homes for years, asked me if he could do any work for us. He wasn’t interested in earning any money, but he needed a place to go where he could work and start to heal from the death of Tenara. We let him know what we were thinking about doing in the basement, and he asked for the job. He would only bill us for the cost of materials, and just wanted to immerse himself in something to keep his mind active. The resulting bathroom is terrific. A beautiful vanity, separate powder room, walk-in shower, linen closet, and then another huge storage area finished for seasonal decorations comprised the entire scope of the project Steve completed for us. Everybody won – Steve started to heal, and we got a great addition for our home when Jill and her family came to visit.
Steve was, and is, a great guy. In fact, you may laugh at what I share next. Dr. Steve Smith was the Dean of the seminary that I attended! That’s right – a Greek and Hebrew scholar who had been a pastor and built his own homes because he didn’t earn enough in ministry to fuel his God given passion to teach the Good News. How about that? And after I started attending seminary, Dr. Smith would call me each day to check on my progress and see how I was getting along in school. I would answer the phone, and hear his unmistakeable voice say, “Good morning, Mr. Toussaint” – and I would answer, “Good morning, Dr. Smith…..”
That worked fine for the first year, but eventually, it started to weigh on me. I wanted to hear the words, DR. Toussaint – but I was a long way from that achievement. I finally let him know how much it bothered me, but it didn’t change a thing – he kept it up, day after day, for more than 3 years. He knew how to get to me – to challenge me to something I thought was unachievable. I began to set my sights on a longer vision; going on for my doctorate. And when the time was right, and I graduated from seminary, I received my invite to continue on for my doctoral studies. Janet and I discussed it, and I hunkered down for another stint with Dr. Smith and the rest of the faculty at the school.
And sure enough, years later, my mentor and my friend, Dr. Steven Smith, called me the day after my dissertation was approved for publication, at the completion of my oral defense. I could hardly wait…. and then the words that I had waited so many years to hear, “Good morning, Dr. Toussaint”……. I just about started crying.
All the years of incredibly hard work; the Greek and the Hebrew, the theology classes, thesis, research, outlines and projects, all resulting in my dissertation – finally, it all seemed worth it. The sleepless nights, the long papers, the quiet times with God, in fact, my total dependence on God – the sacrifices Janet and I made to get through it all – were all oddly summed up in the greeting that morning. The fulfillment of a lifetime goal – an earned doctorate in the most important field I could ever imagine – serving God in His Kingdom.
The verse for this evening reflects my journey with Janet through those years in my life, and my profound appreciation to Dr. Smith and his commitment and dedication to my achievement of the goal. From Paul’s letter to the Romans, in 5:3, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” I think that about says it all.
My encouragement tonight is that there is hope in the world as a result of hard work. And hard work produces character. But only after you dedicate yourself to the pursuit of the goal through perseverance. My prayer is that you will find a passion for something that drives you to excellence and that God can use to further His Kingdom. Furthermore, I pray that you will be open to His leading, because we are in this together and it takes all of us, different parts of one body, to fully execute the desires of God in this world.
As I thought about writing tonight, I called Dr. Smith to let him know that I was was thinking about him today. Know how he answered the phone? You guessed it – “Good evening, Dr. Toussaint”……. I loved it…. and then my most respectful response, “Good evening, Dr. Smith”…..