While I could say that I have always believed in Jesus, the fact is I was not always a Christian. I grew up in a small rural town in southwest Ohio. By God’s grace, I was raised by loving parents and I had a very normal and happy childhood. We faithfully attended a small Methodist church my entire childhood. Even though I thought I was a Christian, I was completely spiritually unprepared when I went to Ohio State. The one positive result of college life was I met a sweet girl that, even though she had her doubts about me, she finally relented and agreed to go on a date with me. The Lord used her as a very sanctifying influence in my life and in 1994 after graduation, Jean and I married and began attending church – because that’s what adults do, right? However, there was no change in my faith as a result. It wasn’t until the Lord placed two friends in my life that I began to see my need for Christ. One of these friends also arranged for me to attend a men’s retreat in April of 1996. It was at this retreat I gave my life to Christ. My wife and I began attending Crossroads Community Church, a church newly planted by Tim Armstrong, in Mansfield, Ohio. In this context, our faith grew by leaps and bounds. Under Tim’s teaching, I learned how to love and study God’s word and apply it to my life. We became very active in the ministry at Crossroads – me in the small groups ministry and Jean on the worship team. After a number of years, I left my career as a lobbyist/political consultant and went in full-time ministry at Crossroads leading the small group ministry. It was a dream of mine to someday attend DTS and get a ThM. The Lord would make that dream a reality 7 years later, but He was going to take me through the “valley of the shadow of death” first.
Jean and I were married for 17 wonderful years – but those years were painful at times because we struggled with infertility. We desperately wanted children, but for years we experienced the pain of waiting, three miscarriages and adoption doors slamming closed. I never imagined the possibility of not being a dad, but what made the pain even greater was watching my wife come to grips with the possibility she may never be a mom. In the midst of that pain, through prayer, seeking God in His word and the counsel of dear friends, we realized that we made the good thing of parenthood an idol. We repented and went to the only place we knew we could go – the Throne of Christ (Heb 3:14-16) and we found healing, peace, and joy. At that point, I can assuredly say that we were the most content in our marriage and in life.
Then, about eight months later on Christmas Eve 2010, a real made-for-Hallmark-movie-event happened. Jean was on staff at our local hospital as a speech therapist and was working in the labor and delivery area when a woman came in and had a baby boy. She told the hospital staff she was essentially homeless and needed someone to adopt this child. We already had our home study and all other paperwork completed so we were able to adopt Matthew on the spot. We were childless on December 24 and brought our son home from the hospital on December 27. Even now as I type this it seems surreal – not possible, but with God- all things are possible! I never saw my wife so happy and all seemed right with the world. That is until September 26, 2011, my wife died suddenly from a massive heart attack leaving me a widower with a 9-month old son. I recall the moment I received the news. Matthew and I were visiting my parents to take in the Brown County Fair. Jean had stayed in Mansfield because she had to work. I talked to her on the phone at 9:02 AM on September 26 and she told me she was in pretty bad pain and a friend was coming to get her to take her to the ER. She told me not to worry because she just thought it was her gallbladder and she just wanted me to know she finally relented and was going to have it looked into. I had decided that I was going to go ahead and gather up Matthew and head back home to tend to her, but 10 minutes later I got the terrible call from our friend – hearing her agonizing and barely comprehensible cry, “She’s gone, Deering!! She’s gone!” With Matthew in my arms I fell into a heap into my parents’ living room floor, in shock, the room spinning and the only thing I could do was to repeat over and over, “I know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).
There is so much I could go into at this point. I could write volumes about how God showed His beautiful kindness through all this. He was kind to give us 17 years of marriage – a rare thing is today’s society. He was kind to Jean for providing her heart’s desire before taking her home. He was kind to give me the son I always wanted and by giving me a baby to keep me moving and not fall into a pit of despair. And God showed His kindness to me through His church. Crossroads Community Church surrounded me with love and protection while I grieved, in particular my best friend and pastor Tim Armstrong and his family kept close watch on me and Matthew. God’s kind Spirit was always near to me and He healed my broken heart.
And in God’s kindness, He also moved me to find love again and brought a Godly woman named Jennifer into my life. Jennifer is a wonderful mother, and seems to have mastered the spiritual gifts of discernment and encouragement. Shortly after we married, Jennifer encouraged me to re-visit my dream of seminary at DTS. We applied and were accepted and began classes in the fall of 2014. While it has been difficult leaving family in Ohio and moving to Texas, it has been the best thing for our new life together. As I mentioned earlier, the Lord blessed us with a little girl, Faith Noelle, on January 29, 2016. This just causes me to proclaim in awe, “God is so kind to me!” From my vantage point as I look at my life, all I can see are marks of God’s kindness in all areas in my life – from the valley of the shadow of death and loss to the lush meadow of healing and new birth.
As of now, I stand to graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary in May, 2018 with my ThM with a dual emphasis in Historical Theology and Spiritual Formation. I have learned so much from the faculty and student body at DTS, primarily I learned that I don’t know as much as I thought I did. My Greek professor encouraged me to just let seminary (in this instance Greek) have its sanctifying effect on me. Seminary was not merely an intellectual/academic endeavor – but an intensely spiritually formative experience. The crucible of seminary, along with the part-time jobs and the attempt to balance family obligations has been a formative experience for sure. While seminary has been hard, it was the best option for us to start a new life together. We were forced us to lean into God and on one another – especially in times of spiritual, emotional and financial drought.
I feel like it is almost cliché to say that Romans 8:28 is my life verse, but I can attest personally to the truth in that wonderful promise of God’s love and His good purposes for His children. It speaks to His supreme sovereignty and also His kind and generous love. I saw it then, I see it now. In this light of God’s abundant kindness, Jennifer and I are so very excited to start this new chapter in ministry together!