The will of God sometimes seems subject to the whims of men and the obstruction of institutions. We do our best to fit in with what God is doing, but the road to the future is not always a straight line. And the voyage is not always pleasant.
In the process of working toward a degree, I've submitted several proposals. Some have been significantly different from others, but most of them seem like the same thing to me, tweaked and re-tweaked in the stumble toward an "angle" acceptable to my readers and advisers. Along the way, I've varied between excitement at "This is it! Please, please let me do this!" and sheer boredom with the normal, back-and-forth exchanges within academia.
My fellow students say the same thing: "This is crazy! Will we ever get done?" Some have tossed in the towel because, "It's too much work," or "This is nonsensical busy work," or "I just can't be bothered. I have other things to do." Both reactions are expected by our professors.
All that keeps me stubbornly moving ahead is a spiritual call to finish what I've started. My journey of faith moves through THIS landscape, whatever the procedures, whatever the route, and whatever the system I have to wade through.
Those of us still on the road to a PhD continually ask each other, "Is it fun?" No (unanimous). "Is it interesting?" Rarely (unanimous). "Is it frustrating?" Yes (unanimous). "Is it an ordeal that sometimes makes us clench our teeth and feel like screaming?" Oh, yes (unanimous). "Are we learning?" Well, sort of. We've learned that the doctoral process and its wheels of institutionalism will grind on us as they have ground on thousands of others, until we are spit through the academic machine onto a stage for a piece of paper. Few people care about the actual subject that interests us.
So, for all of us who've landed where the only point of being here seems to be for some person, hierarchy, or politicians to make the road as rough as possible... for those in ministries that seem stuck and going nowhere... for those who feel our contributions are irrelevant and under-appreciated... for those bowed down with cares and burdens that are crushing us... what do we know for sure?
- God is our foundation, as the prophet says: "He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure." (Isaiah 33:6 NIV)
- His word is a true and trustworthy anchor: "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." (Psalm 19:7-10 NKJV)
- God alone knows the future. Our job is to trust and obey in the present. His presence settles our hearts, no matter where the journey takes us today.
Sometimes a door closes to force us to move away from comfort to somewhere else. Sometimes it closes because a bigger opportunity awaits. Sometimes we just learn patience and hope. Disappointments help us to consider options we would never been open to in more comfortable surroundings.
Let's keep our eyes open and our running shoes on! God indeed is the sure foundation from which -- and to which -- we launch ourselves from green pastures into the unknown, again and again.