Most of us have someone in our lives, someone who changed us. We can see it. We can see that person in who we are—who we have become. I have been fortunate to have several of these people in my life. Most of them were characters, and I am grateful for what God has done in me through them.
It was fall, 1974. The Jesus Movement has taken root on the west coast and moved across the country. A movement known for emotional intensity and a radically contemporary take on Christianity. The people formed by this movement were not particularly respected—in fact, they were called “freaks”. “Jesus Freaks”. And when used by traditional Christians, that wasn’t a complement. Imagine the frustration of those traditional Christians in institutions like Bible Colleges, inundated by Jesus Freaks who questioned everything and frankly, we weren’t known for our maturity or understanding of scripture.
One of the most intense of those “traditional” Christian professors gloried in single-handedly getting rid of half the freshman class every fall (quoting him). Everyone was amazed at his intensity and what seemed to be, for lack of a better way of explaining it, ferocity. He delighted in challenging assumptions and catching unsuspecting students in their assumptions and illogical emotionalism.
I wasn’t having it. I complained about his uncaring arguments and the fact that he flatly contradicted what other professors—including the President of the Bible College—taught. I will never forget the response. “Randy, he isn’t here to teach you. He is here to teach you how to learn. Let him teach you that.”
Over the next four years I did just that. And as I did, I learned something about him. He was so passionate about scripture, and he understood the power of teaching—even false teaching. He was intent on doing whatever it took to make sure those in his class became students, and that when his students became teachers, they were able to faithfully pass on to others what God has given us in scripture. He wasn’t perfect in living it, and he was quite open about that. But we learned he cared passionately, not only about the Word, but about us.
It has been nearly 45 years. I survived his teaching and went on to attend five graduate schools, culminating in a doctorate in 1987. I have had the privilege of teaching every age group, every level of maturity, men, women, almost every ethnic and socio-economic group, American and many from other countries. I have taught in large groups and one on one. I have taught the curious who do not yet have faith and Doctoral students. And every time, he taught them through me. God used him so powerfully in my life and continues to do so. Every time I read. Every time I study. Every time I am in any way “teacher”, there he is in the background.
Dallas Meserve isn’t the only one who had this effect on me. But today I learned that Dallas is no longer stationed in this foreign land. He has been allowed to come home. I am not his Lord or his judge, but I have to believe he has heard the words I would give anything to hear—“You did well”. Congratulations Dallas. And Thank You.