Sixteen years ago this December 15th, I earned my first doctorate – a Doctor of Ministry degree with an emphasis in coaching people and families in career transition. It is an area that I have worked in for the past 39 years and I felt strongly compelled to do my studies in this field.
When I was younger, I never thought that I would really be in the career business. But after staffing many area companies for years, and growing our business to more than 1000 employees, it became apparent that I needed more insights into the struggles that families went through in dealing with life matters. What really caused Janet and me to make the decision for seminary was the fact that a young person that I did business with at one of our client companies committed an assisted suicide with Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
That incident helped me realize that I needed additional training in the areas of counseling and helping people who were dealing with life threatening stress. Heading to seminary was the best solution that we could think of to enter into a deeper relationship with God – the one who created me – and use that for His glory.
Although I hated college, I loved my entire seminary experience. After my M.Div. degree and ordination, I was offered the opportunity to go on for my doctorate. It was something unexpected but Janet and I both thought that I should accept the invitation. The work was difficult but very rewarding. Of course, the highlight of the entire experience was the submission of my dissertation and the oral defense that I had in front of twenty or so folks with earned doctorates who quizzed me on my project and related findings.
For several years, I was in touch with my mentor/advisor each morning and he would check my progress against a timeline that we had agreed to. Dr. Smith was tough, but fair… and he never failed to call me Mr. Toussaint whenever we were meeting together. Frankly, I yearned to be addressed as Dr. Toussaint someday.
Well, my coursework was finally complete, along with my dissertation and now it was the preparation for my oral defense that occupied my time. The process was relatively straight forward. Copies of my work were distributed to each member of the program team in charge of questioning me. Several weeks later I was invited to the seminary library for the formal proceeding and defense. There was a very long table, with chairs down both sides; and a place for me to stand at the end. That’s right – stand – for three hours of questions and answers.
Dr. Smith was opposite me at the other end of the table and would, from time to time, shoot me a glance or nod in my direction as the questioning progressed. Janet had joined me and she was outside the closed doors to the library, sitting with one of my seminary friends who had come to keep her company while I was being interrogated about my work.
At the end of the session, I was asked to leave while the committee discussed my preparation and answers to all their questions. I sat outside for what seemed like an eternity. I had been forewarned that when the committee had made their decision, the doors would be opened and I would be greeted – as Mr. Toussaint if I had not passed – and as Dr. Toussaint if I had made the grade and been awarded the degree of Doctor of Ministry.
I was hoping for success and when the door opened, I was greeted by Dr. Smith and Dr. Branine who welcomed me as Dr. Toussaint… It was awesome! And a big relief. At the time of my defense, I was very nervous but now I look back with fondness on the events of that day, December 15, 2005.
I became part of a select group of people who had added to the body of knowledge and had achieved a leadership status in the school. It was incredibly rewarding. Tough, but rewarding. I have since that time continued with my education but nothing has compared to being invited into that room that day, and addressed as Dr…
I have tried to honor God since that time by teaching Bible, helping others in distress and leading what I hope will be seen as a God centered life. And it all started with a desire to deepen my relationship with the One who created me. My verse for tonight is a simple one that we have all heard many times. The apostle John tells us the words of Jesus in John 14:6-7, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
That’s the whole reason I studied in seminary – that I would know the Son and the Father more intimately. My encouragement this evening is that God desires to have a deep relationship with each of His children. And God the Father has entrusted the care of His children to Jesus, the Messiah. My prayer is that, especially during this Christmas season, we will contemplate the blessings that we have in being in communion with the God of the Universe. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…