My friendship with Dr. Harris goes far back to 1991, when, as a 41-year-old, I returned to college to earn my Bachelor’s degree. It was fairly scary, after having been out of college for 18 years. Little did I know how much my life would change!
I had attended a secular Junior college, and, when money ran out, just joined the work force, hoping to return someday, but LIFE got in the way. It wasn’t until 1982 when I went forward at a Billy Graham crusade that my walk began. I had grown up in a church that did not preach Salvation and I did not have a relationship with Jesus. You see, I was raised in an environment where knowledge was EVERYTHING. Knowledge had become my God and continued to be until I started school at Washington Bible College. God led me there by way of a request to start a Christian daycare at my new church. I recognized my lack of Biblical knowledge and felt that as director, I’d better be able to hold my own, scripturally speaking. So I enrolled at WBC.
A funny thing happened along the way. Dr. Harris, (then Professor Harris) kept speaking about “making the Bible the book of your heart.” I had a long way to go. I was still preoccupied with making the grade, studying hard and getting those 4.0s. I was totally missing the point. But God was doing a work in me.
About one year into my time at WBC, my classmates and I learned that his wife, Betsy, was expecting. Over the months, he would bring in the ultrasounds of the new little Harris. Then, just before Christmas, he showed us the latest: “Here is Baby A, and here is Baby B!” We were so thrilled!
Fast forward to March, 1993. Betsy had lost the little girls (an extremely moving story found in the opening of The Cup and the Glory). However, we at the college were the first beneficiaries of Professor Harris’ wisdom. We wondered how this man of great faith would weather this heartbreaking storm. Would he be bitter? Would he allow it to shatter his faith? Would he retreat from the world, an empty shell of a man who had given so much to the Lord? How would he respond to this?
During class, he shared how, earlier that week, he had used a situation to teach Lauren, their daughter, a life lesson: She had taken two pieces of candy intended for her and her little brother, Ben. He explained how he had told her to “place them both in my hands”. Of course, she didn’t want to but he repeated the command and explained that the candy was not hers until he gave it to her. “I may give you one or both, or I may not, but they are mine to give or mine to keep.” He also explained to her how he and Betsy desired the best for her and whether or not he gave her the candy was no indication of their love for her.
Professor Harris went on to explain that only hours later what he was trying to teach his children would be thrust upon him and Betsy when they learned that the twins would not live: “Place them both in my hands.” God was calling them to trust and obey. I remember him saying that when he teaches on a principle that may be difficult for his audience to take, God would always allow him to face a similar trial.
So, we learned that day: HE WAS NOT BITTER. Rather than ask, “Why me?” He would take the view, “Why NOT me?” Our pain is good for strengthening us in the Lord and He is always there to comfort: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
HIS FAITH REMAINED STRONG. He told us that in this deepest sorrow he actually felt the Lord’s presence and closeness like never before. His little girls were home, and if that was God’s best for them, then they could and would entrust their keeping to their Heavenly Father. We will never know this side of Heaven why God wanted them home, but God is faithful and to be trusted in all things.
The original lesson was abandoned that day, but in its place was a much more important one; a real-life lesson, one greater than any textbook could offer. A lesson right from the hand of God.
As graduation day approached, I had the joy of sharing with my dear professor that through everything he taught me and all that I had experienced, I finally learned to make the Bible “the book of my heart.” This has served me well throughout my life and prepared me to face the many sorrows that lay ahead of me. It has enabled others to see God at work in me. The gift of faith God gave carried me through my husband’s three year battle with cancer, eventually taking his life. Then three days later, I survived a near-fatal car crash. Hospitalized and in rehab, I eventually learned to walk again. Over and over, through various trials, I obeyed the call to “place them both in my hands.” Often people marveled at my strength and remarked how it must be my faith, giving opportunity for sharing Christ. Whatever situations life may bring, may we be quick to place them in the Father’s sovereign hand. God is so good!