“All truth is God’s truth, wherever it be found.”
My OBU story began as so many others before and after—with Welcome Week. I wore the beanie, I played games like the second coming of Falls Creek, and I was given a slim, purple book. I am ashamed to admit that, even to this day, I did not actually read the purple book. Even so, Arthur Holmes’ The Idea of a Christian College laid the foundation for my story at Bison Hill.
I was raised in East Texas as an active member of a Southern Baptist church. In our family, there was no clear line between religion and daily life. I was saved at the age of six, praying with my mother in my parents’ bedroom. We went to church twice on Sundays and on Wednesday evenings, and we spent our summers in the church daycare or the youth group. By the time I was in fourth grade, I could find any verse in the Bible in ten seconds or less, and I read the Bible cover to cover before high school graduation.
I came to Oklahoma Baptist University safe and comfortable in my faith. And why not? I had already mastered the fundamental truths of Christianity. Yet, before I left East Texas, my pastor admonished me from the pulpit one Sunday evening not to lose my faith at OBU. The thought was absurd, of course. OBU was a safe place. My professors might teach me little I did not already know, but I could trust them not to lead me astray.
So when I was told during Welcome Week that “all truth is God’s truth, wherever it be found,” I believed it. Suddenly, my mind opened. I remember walking through the midday August heat, the phrase “all truth is God’s truth” breaking through my mind like waves upon a rocky coast. Suddenly, the classes that I believed were merely a series of hoops on the way to a degree became vital to my awakening as a Christian: Sociology, philosophy, Spanish, psychology, history, and literature became integral to my faith, but I was naïvely unafraid of the challenges that they would bring—unable to leave discussions and lectures in the classroom. As I learned, the cocksure boy became the eager student. If I were to know God, then I would need to integrate my faith with learning.
Until the winter break of my sophomore year, I believed that these two could coexist. Then my faith in the institution of the church began to falter. I switched from majoring in Applied Youth Ministry to both Philosophy and Religion.
My memories of the months and semesters that followed are ones of highs and lows. My classes introduced me to the Bible and to critical thought, as if for the first time. They exhilarated and excited me, and my mind let go of childlike trust. I began to question the fundamentals my pastor admonished so fervently even as I held on to God’s truth wherever I found it.
I remember the darkness the most. The island of my former faith was assailed by a hurricane of new learning, and my relationship with God changed. I remember wandering the sidewalks at one or two o’clock in the morning, restless and unable to sleep. I remember shouting at God in the cold, dark rain. I remember how palpable the mist was, how it shrouded the world in the eerie half-light of the streetlamps. I remember searching for meaning as I attempted to reorient my life around a God I no longer understood. As the floodwaters rose, my house, built upon sand, collapsed.
But my OBU story does not end there: Just as the gospels would end prematurely with Jesus on the cross, so it would to leave me on sidewalks at midnight. Many shy away from tales of fear and doubt, but these are the very essence of Christ at work within us. At times the narrow road descends into darkness, seeming never to rise again. One of the hallmarks of early Baptist thought was the radical notion that all believers—anyone who trusted Jesus—were priests. No one could mediate faith save Christ. Following Jesus on the road of discipleship is not about the destination—it is about the journey.
Had my professors forced me into a narrow understanding of God—whether liberal or conservative—I would have left Christianity. Rather, they gave me tools for the road of discipleship. All of my life since OBU—seminary, working with homeless persons, and finally teaching in public education—has been a desire to love a God that I do not understand. Because they taught me that all truth is God’s truth, wherever it is found, I am still on the road, following Jesus to Jerusalem. My journey led back to a faith that belongs to me instead of another.
OBU has been more to me than an education. Through my struggles, it has been a revelation.