God Never Fails to Surprise

To my knowledge, I never had a Christian professor during my decade of undergraduate and graduate studies. When I became an assistant professor, I wanted to be the Christian professor I never knew. .

While I had my own idea of how that would take shape, God fulfilled my desire in surprising ways. Soon after arriving at my first position, after church one Sunday, two women from my first class approached me and asked if I would speak to their student Bible study. I said yes.

They Made It Impossible For Me To Hide My Faith

The next morning, posters with my face were plastered on every wall in the business school. I was horrified. When the date of the talk arrived, the only students to attend were the two women. Unfortunately for them, the brand-new assistant professor failed as an attraction.  But in retrospect, I so appreciate that they made it impossible for me to hide my faith. This proved to be a huge blessing in my career, as it opened doors and conversations.

The Lord Clipped The Power Lines

A few years later, I gave a talk at another university and afterward headed to dinner with one of their faculty members. While we were waiting for some other professors to join us, she learned the school’s electricity had gone out. The rest of the faculty had been asked to stay and help the students complete their final exams. Consequently, we dined alone.

As we were chatting, I mentioned “church.” The professor broke down, told me her life story, and how she had drifted from God. We prayed and began a long-distance discipling relationship. Perhaps the Lord clipped the power lines that day.

He Was Going To Hell

Later in my career, we had a Bible study for faculty and staff at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. At the beginning of the year, I sent an invitation to new faculty and staff. A new professor replied, explaining he couldn’t come because he was going to hell. I wrote back and asked if we could have lunch together.

Over lunch, he explained he had committed an unforgivable sin: divorce. I responded I thought he needed to understand “freedom in Christ.” Immediately, he began to weep uncontrollably in the middle of a packed restaurant. I had no idea what had triggered this emotional outburst, but we left our barely touched lunches and didn’t speak on the ride back to the office.

The Meltdown Explained

A  couple of weeks later, I asked if he would like to go back to lunch. He explained the meltdown. When he left his previous university, a Christian friend prayed he would meet someone who could explain “freedom in Christ” to him. He was shocked when my first words were the same as his friend had prayed for.

In time, he believed Christ could forgive anything. He eventually led a Bible study among our students.

God never fails to surprise.

I’m retired now, but I continue to marvel at how God used me over 30 years in the academy. He opened doors, brought people into my life, and provided opportunities to connect others to Christ. I am forever thankful for these years.

Douglas Shackelford

Professor Emeritus- Business

University of North Carolina