Along with middle-age has come bifocals, muscles that take longer to recover than they used to, and a profound sense that, contrary to prior assumptions, I am not going to live forever after all. Nonetheless, one of the few nice things about being middle-aged is that by the time one has reached his forties, he has enough life behind him to provide for fruitful reflection. As I reflect on my life, it immediately becomes clear that there are a few individuals who positively impacted me in such a way as to change the trajectory of my life. The first to come to mind beyond my parents and grandparents, are my high school wrestling and cross-country coaches, Larry Emery and Dick Warvel, respectively. These men invested countless hours in young lives and were more concerned about forming better human beings than forming athletes.
The other two men that have made a significant impact upon me I met while attending Bethel College. The first class I took when I transferred to Bethel was Evangelism & Discipleship taught by Dr. John Dendiu. Not only did Dr. Dendiu introduce me the works of the spiritual giants, but he also challenged my understanding of the church and opened my mind to the world of spiritual formation. Dr. Dendiu is a pastor’s pastor whose heart and genuine concern for the student always comes through in his teaching. He continues to be a mentor in my life.
While the impact these men made upon me is profound, perhaps no one (outside of my father and grandfather) has left a deeper impression upon me than Dr. Gene Carpenter. Until his untimely death a couple of days ago, Dr. Carpenter was Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Bethel College. After my first undergrad class with him I registered for every class he taught. For a while he probably thought I was stalking him. I was simply blown away, not only by his vast knowledge, but by his passion for the Bible. His intellect was complemented by his personal warmth, sharp wit, and keen sense of humor. He was responsible for kindling my passion for the Old Testament, biblical theology, and biblical Hebrew. Indeed, the fact that I am studying at Asbury Theological Seminary today is due, in no small part, to his encouragement. He will be sorely missed.
As we proceed through life we come into contact with many people. If we are fortunate, some of these points of contact will impact us in ways that will make us more fully human and will irreversibly change our lives. To say that these men served that formative purpose in my life is to say far too little. They impacted me in a way that not only changed my trajectory, but also left an indelible mark on my soul. I am deeply grateful that God blessed me though my association with them, and while time, distance, or death may separate us in the present moment, I look forward to spending eternity with them.