by Sherri Seifert Jacob
On a beautiful afternoon while vacationing on the island of Cozumel, Mexico, our son Preston, a fourth-year medical student, was sharing how he needed to submit his ranking for residency. He was struggling with his number three choice and had been belaboring the choice for weeks with various “pro and con” lists. I told him I couldn’t be a big help to him because, as a mom, I couldn’t help but be biased for him to pick the Emergency Residency Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), versus the University of Michigan. Obviously, I couldn’t help but want him to be closer to us in Chicago.
To provide a little background, all fourth-year medical students submit their top dozen or so choices of residency programs to a “matching” system called the National Resident Matching Program. This is a residency application process that is much more complex than simply applying to med school and hopefully getting accepted to the one you want. For the 3 to 4 years of residency, a complex algorithm is used to match students with residency programs based on both the student’s ranking and the residency program’s ranking of the students that they previously interviewed. It’s a fascinating system that solved a lot of prior issues with students trying to game the system, among other things. If you’re interested, watch this entertaining video.
As my husband Jeff and Preston continued talking this matter over, I said, “You know, I am preparing to teach Joshua 18–21 in a few weeks for my women’s Bible study, and the children of Israel had to draw lots for the last seven territories once they were surveyed. Why don’t you consider drawing lots or tossing a coin?”
Knowing this wasn’t the conventional way of making decisions in our evangelical church, I wasn’t sure I would be taken seriously. However, Jeff also mentioned that the disciples drew lots to determine who would replace Judas in the Book of Acts.
So Jeff said, “Preston, why not? You need direction in this decision, so let’s go back to the room, but instead of drawing lots, you can flip a coin.”
So they went back up to our room and Jeff found a coin. Preston decided that heads would be UIC and tails would be the University of Michigan. Jeff prayed before Preston flipped the coin, asking Jesus to make the coin flip the way He wanted it to be, so Preston could know God’s choice for his number three pick. So Preston flipped the coin and it landed on the floor, heads up: UIC.
Preston then looked at Jeff and said, “How about two out of three?”
Jeff teased him then, asking if he was being like Gideon who had to have the fleece wet, and then the next time dry.* So Jeff said, “Go ahead and flip it again.” Preston flipped the coin a second time and again, heads up: UIC.
Preston looked at Jeff and said, “How about three out of five?” Jeff said, “Go ahead,” so Preston flipped the coin a third time and you guessed it—heads up: UIC.
At that point Preston decided that he had flipped the coin enough. But a moment later Preston says to his dad, “Hey, Dad, I think you have a bad coin.”
Jeff responded, “It’s not a bad coin, let me show you.” So Jeff flipped the coin and it landed tails up: Michigan. “See,” he said, “there’s nothing wrong with this coin.” Jeff flipped it one more time and sure enough, it landed tails up: Michigan. Jeff said, “That confirms it, there’s nothing wrong with this coin. God wants you to put UIC as your number three choice on your rank list.”
From Cozumel, Preston emailed his choices to the residency application program and then set about the hard process of waiting.
Three weeks later, Preston and all of us are up at his Medical School for the big reveal party called “Match Day,” where the medical students all across the country open their envelopes to see where the algorithm has placed each student. Preston opens his envelope and his location turns out to be his number three choice, UIC! We were all overjoyed with his match! Preston was pleased, but was honest and said he was hoping he’d get his number one choice.
A couple of days later, on Sunday morning, Preston was going to go to church with us. He jumped in the car as we were leaving and said, “Mom, I have to tell you what happened when I got in the shower this morning. I turned the water on and all of a sudden, I heard the sound of a coin dropping on the bottom of the tub!”
He went on to share how a quarter came out of nowhere, dropping, making a loud-enough sound to grab his attention. (Had it been a nickel or dime he may not have heard it.) He looked down at the quarter and it was heads up.
His first thought was, “Did mom just drop this in here?” But he realizes I did not and that he had experienced something supernatural. He received it from the Lord as a confirmation that “heads up” means University of Illinois at Chicago, and God has placed him exactly where He wants him to be.
* Jeff was referring to the Old Testament passage of Judges 6: 36–40: 36 “Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.”
[Epilogue: Preston has since finished his residency at UIC in emergency medicine and is now in his second year as an attending physician in the Emergency Department of Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, and a clinical instructor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Preston and his fiancée, Sarah, will be married this fall.]
Sherri Seifert Jacob and her husband, Jeff Jacob, have two other children and three grandchildren. Jeff and Sherri live in the Chicago area, but also live part time in Dallas, Texas. Sherri recently started a not-for-profit business, Alisa Joy Foundation, whose goal is outreach and education regarding sex trafficking in the DFW area. The Foundation will also provide funding to assist women coming out trafficking through a soon-to-be-opened Alisa Joy Bridal Boutique which will, with the help of volunteers, sell donated wedding dresses at 50 to 80% off retail. The exciting story of how this Foundation came into being will be the focus of a future post on GAIL’S STORY!
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