Posted by: deerharas | March 14, 2010

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow …

Here’s something I’ve learned over the past 20 months: There is an inverse relationship between the amount of reading/writing assigned in grad school and the amount of reading/writing I try and do for fun.  Blogs have become very few and far between, and I don’t remember the last novel I finished.  Spring Break is on its last leg, and sadly, I haven’t made much time for either this week.  I did catch a couple concerts (Magnetic Fields & Andrew Peterson) as well as a couple movies (Up in the Air & The Hurt Locker), but today I’m attempting to at least churn out a blog post.

There’s a chance this may be my last Spring Break ever.  I doubt it, but it’s a possibility.  If I pass a kind of important test here in a couple weeks I get to graduate on May 8th.  What’s next, you ask?  I have absolutely no idea.  My life is more up in the air now than I can ever remember it being.  And while for the past several months this has been an area of almost crippling stress, I am rounding a corner of hope and even excitement these days.

I don’t really consider myself a fearful person.  There have been several times I felt like God prompted me to step out in faith and do something uncomfortable.  Whether it be as simple as initiating a difficult conversation or as extreme as moving across the country not knowing anyone, each faith step, while certainly not easy, was graced with the peace that surpasses all understanding.  It was in the midst of one of those “faith steps” that a friend off handedly made a comment that has stuck with me for years.  She said something about how it was easier for her and me to trust the Lord because we had continually experienced his faithfulness.  I was seventeen at the time, so maybe that wasn’t saying much.  However, standing here ten years later, I have a deeper appreciation for the truth of those words … at least the latter half.

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more beaten down than in the past year.  I moved up here a little over a year and a half ago to pursue the “next step” on a journey of faith in which I hoped to become better equipped to serve the Lord in whatever situation I might find myself.  College professor was the line I would give anyone who asked.  And that may very well be the final destination, but my grad school experience has really been discouraging in that regard.  My passions are teaching are writing.  It would seem reasonable that academia would be a sensible career path, right?  Well …

Last spring I attended a panel discussion on pursuing a PhD.  These are the two quotes I remember:

“A PhD is not a ticket to teaching.  You have to love the scholarship.”

“It’s really hard to get into a PhD program.  It’s really hard once you’re in a PhD program.  It’s really hard to find a job once you have your PhD.  It’s really hard to like the job you get with your PhD.”

Anyone else want to run in the completely opposite direction?  Those statements wouldn’t be so intimidating if they weren’t confirmed by my experience in the program.  Don’t get me wrong; I am so thankful for the time I’ve had here.  I’ve learned so much and been challenged in innumerable ways.  I’m a better thinker, writer, and overall communicator.  But I’ve also learned that to excel in this program takes endless hours of library isolation, which I’m just not so sure I can do.  I have to be around people and feel like I am making a tangible difference in their lives.  That’s not to say that those who devote themselves to research and writing for the benefit of biblical scholarship are not making a difference; I am indebted to them.  You are indebted to them.  But perhaps that is not to be my contribution.

So with that suspicion creeping into my mental forefront, I began to fear.  Why was I here?  Did I seriously take out thousands of dollars in student loans for nothing?  Did God really lead me here, or was this entirely my own initiative?  The pangs of doubt and constant questioning led to an almost complete lack of motivation as I faced the most difficult semester I have ever experienced.  I thought last spring was tough, but this past fall was indescribable.  I love that my program emphasizes a canonical approach to Scripture, but Hebrew and the Old Testament in general are NOT my strong suits.  Call me Old Testamentally challenged.  And while I loved everything I was learning last semester, I struggled.  113 pages of writing and untold pages of reading will do that to you, I guess.  Being back in NT classes this semester has been a breath of fresh air, but it’s hard to forget last semester’s barely salvageable difficulties.

But back to the fear.  May 8th should be a day of celebration, but I had begun to fear it.  All I could see was either 1) not being able to find a job or 2) hating the job I found.  Those were the only two possibilities I could fathom, which is utter ridiculousness.  It wasn’t until I got an email about a ministry related position opening that something began to shift in my thinking.

I still have no idea what’s next.  Which is scary.  I wouldn’t say, as my friend quipped so long ago, that it’s easy to trust.  But I can say that He is faithful.  Has been, is now, and will be.  A couple Sundays ago we had a guest preacher at Parkview who spoke on faith.  I don’t really remember much of his sermon, only a brief anecdote he shared toward the end.  Just before we sang my favorite hymn of all time (based on my favorite Scripture of all time) he explained how formative it was for him to sing it in the church he grew up in.  As a little boy he stood beside eighty and ninety year old Norwegians proclaiming, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and even then he knew the truth of those words.  This predominately elderly congregation had earned the right to say no.  No, He isn’t faithful.  But they sang passionately about the enduring faithfulness of their God that they had experienced over decades and decades.  That is the most encouraging message I’ve heard in a long time.

Somehow I had forgotten.  I had let the hardships of the past year reduce my vision to the here and now, rather than looking to the past with gratitude and the future with hope.  I am faithless, but He is faithful.  It’s just who He is.

So rather than living in the doubt and depression of the past several months, I am choosing to remember who God is and what He has done.  It’s that remembrance that brings the “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”  Perhaps you can join me in this proclamation:

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

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Responses

  1. There was a moment in the library last semester when I was at my wit’s end, and you took time out of your busy studying to throw me a rope. Well, you have just thrown me another rope, ma’am.
    Thank you for sharing this bit of your heart.

    • Ha … I’ve had a few of those “library moments” myself! If it weren’t for the generous assistance of my classmates, I don’t KNOW what I’d have done! Thanks for reading, Lauren!


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