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Back in middle school, I was a definitely what you would call a “band nerd.” Every day, I would loiter with my clarinet buddies in the office of our band director, Mary Jo Sharp, for hours. Over the course of my middle school career, my friends and I grew extremely close to our director, who would chat with us daily after school about anything we cared to discuss. Needless to say, she was the kind of teacher who always poured genuine concern into the lives of her students, a real example of Christ’s love.

It was no secret that Mrs. Sharp was a Christian, but when she resigned my freshmen year of high school to follow God’s calling into apologetics (the defense of faith,) all of her students were shocked. She returned to the University of Oklahoma, where she had received her bachelor’s degree in music education, and pursued a master’s degree in apologetics. Shortly thereafter, she began appearing on Christian radio shows, in Baptist publications, and on Internet podcasts with regular frequency as part of Confident Christianity. Before long, she wrote her first devotional, Defending the Faith, and was eventually offered a teaching position at Houston Baptist University, where she now serves as an Assistant Professor of Apologetics.

Often times, when I flip to the last page of a devotional to read about the author, I cannot help but wonder if these spiritual leaders truly adhere to the principles they teach. When I see Mary Jo Sharp’s name on the bottom of Defending the Faith, however, I recall the countless instances of Godly love where she patiently listened to the frivolous, daily worries of her middle school students, always equipped with kind words and Biblically-centered advice. It goes without saying that Mrs. Sharp greatly influenced the early stages of my walk with Christ and continues to do so now through her work with apologetics.

In college, your beliefs are tested daily as new ideas are thrown at you from every direction, which can unfortunately plants seeds of doubt in the back of any lifelong Christian’s mind. This is why I have taken a recent interest in Mary Jo’s work, as a proactive response to the doubts that are inevitable to the Christian faith. Although I have only begun to work through her devotional, I can connect to the honesty with which she discusses her doubts, personal spiritual struggles, and pursuit of hard answers through apologetics. Even though it has been seven years since I was her student, God is still using Mary Jo to meet my spiritual needs. Isn’t that amazing?

If you are looking to test the waters of apologetics or are in need of a new devotional, I would love to invite you to work through Defending the Faith with me. You can purchase the book either online, at Amazon, or at most Mardel stores. When I step back and observe the big picture of God’s plan for Mary Jo in my life, my trust in him is only renewed. It then leads me to a larger question: Am I allowing God to work through me in the lives of others? Are you? It’s funny how reflecting on the past, on the mentors that prayed and cared for us, can heavily influence our own future as a strategically-placed puzzle piece in God’s great plan.