The Day I Met Jebediah
The day that I went down for my interview with the Dean of the Seminary at Heritage, where I attended school, was one of the most remarkable afternoons I have ever experienced. Of course, I was nervous. After all, it had been more than 25 years since I had been in a classroom, and that in itself was daunting. Sure, I felt convicted that I should be in seminary, but that didn’t seem to lessen the anxiety I was feeling as I drove south and then finally entered the driveway to the campus. Inexplicably, I felt a strange sense of peace as I pulled the car into a space; as I thought about entering the Administration Building.
My appointment was with Dr. Smith, and since the campus was not that large, I thought it should be rather easy to find him. It was summertime; hot, and there were no classes in session when I arrived. Rather than carry my folio around to the various buildings, I left it on the hood of my car, and went in search of Dr. Smith. Once inside, I was told that he was in the lower level, getting coffee for himself while preparing curriculum for a new class. Dr. Smith was a scholar in both Greek and Hebrew and assuming I got in, he would be the man to teach me the original languages.
Well, to cut to the chase, I found Dr. Smith next to the coffee pot, filling up his cup, just as I had been told. We introduced ourselves to each other and started to chat before we even headed back upstairs. I instantly connected with him. Somewhere along the line, I noticed that a young man had joined us, and he happened to be holding my folio. He didn’t interrupt, or gesture, or do anything other than stand there, waiting for Dr. Smith to acknowledge him. I was actually a little uncomfortable, as I would have stopped the conversation and asked this young man how I could assist him.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Smith turned and said, “Hello, Jebediah, how can I help you?” I couldn’t believe it! I had never met a real, live Jebediah – in fact, I didn’t know the name even existed any more. And here I was, face to face, with a real Jebediah. And he was just like I would have imagined in my mind’s eye. Ever do that? Think about what someone must be like based on their name? I know that I have.
Well, Jebediah apologized for the interruption and then proceeded to ask me if I was Mr. Toussaint. I told him that I was, and by the way, his pronunciation of my name was flawless. He informed me that he had found a folio on a car hood, and had taken the liberty of looking inside to see if there was a name of the owner. He had found one of my business cards and so he had set out on his mission to return the “lost” case. He felt terrible about opening my case, which he considered to be an invasion of my privacy; and let me know right away that he was sorry, but he wanted to personally deliver it to me. I let Jebediah know that I had left the case on the hood of the car on purpose, so as to not have to carry it around the school. He once again apologized and let me know that he would return it to the hood of the car where he found it! I assured him that I could take the case and it was unnecessary for him to be inconvenienced by returning it outside.
And all the time, I was thinking, “I can’t believe it – a real, live Jebediah.” And he was so kind, and gentle, and service oriented, and humble, and accommodating. I was blown away by his manners and his authenticity. So he returned my case to me, apologized again for the intrusion and headed away from us. I can’t remember the last time that I was treated with such genuine respect.
Anyway, my mind was almost made up on the spot that I wanted to attend this school. Any place that had that kind of profound impact on a man in his early twenties had to be doing something right. And whatever it was, I wanted some of it – I sensed that God was present in this place.
I was eventually accepted for admission, and learned that most of my classmates were older men who, like I, had felt a call to attend seminary and had left jobs to experience the classroom as middle aged students. My dear friend Paul is one of these men. And Jebediah eventually became a classmate. He had a real knack for the languages, as did Paul, and I struggled more than either of them. While Paul was very strong in Greek, Hebrew came easily to Jeb. And I was profoundly impacted by both these Godly men.
Whenever I return to seminary, as I did yesterday, I always remember my first interview on campus. I no longer see Jeb, but Paul and I still meet frequently. And I am reminded about a verse, from Col. 3:12, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…” Aren’t those great traits that we should all aspire to? I think they are, and I have seen men and women who exemplify these qualities day after day – for years. And it all started with Jebediah and the folio on the car.
My encouragement tonight is that there are people out there who really exemplify a God-centered life. While they may be few and far between, they are something to behold and to interact with – a rare gift. And you know what? You can be one of those people also. It’s impossible without God, but everything is possible with God. And my prayer is that you will have a gentle spirit and acquire the other traits that Paul reminds us are so affirming about those who have dedicated themselves to God Himself. Grace and Peace…