Family! What’s goodington? I have returned. I had to drop off the grid for a while to prepare for my preliminary exam. What is a preliminary exam? Can’t you just Google it? I’m glad you asked. They’re set up a little differently depending on the school and department, but they’re used to see if a student should be allowed to begin or continue work on their doctorate dissertation. My department (Bioengineering) requires that, after your first year in the program, you set up a novel experimental design to acquire new knowledge in your field. You must write up a report (8 page max) detailing your proposal and present your idea to a committee of faculty members who will ask you questions to see how bad they can make you sweat test your knowledge of the subject matter. I equate it to a less intense version of a thesis defense. All this after just one year in grad school.
I was scared.
We won’t go into some of the minor insecurities that I hold in the world of academia, but let’s just say I didn’t know if I would get through this. In fact, there were plenty of moments when I thought I wouldn’t get through this. Facts weren’t making sense. Papers were contradicting each other. Information would get lost in my mind. I even began to prepare myself to deal with a failing presentation in case that ended up being the outcome. Yeah, not a good look.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think I was stupid, just out of my league at this juncture (again, I’m working on my insecurities in academia). But while my fear decided to beat me over the head every now and again, I continued to prepare. I read papers, took notes, formulated ideas, modified those ideas, and attempted to organize them into a coherent proposal. I did what I had to do. But the fear didn’t go away. It was still there, lingering over me just waiting to say “I told you so.” So I did the only thing I could do…
I went to my God.
I brought my situation, my fear, my doubt, and my insecurities to Him. And I’ll tell you what. Peace surly did follow. I still didn’t know if I would pass or fail, but I knew that worrying about it wouldn’t change God’s will. I knew worrying wouldn’t change the direction that God was taking me. I knew worrying wouldn’t change the destiny God had in store for me.
In the end, I got through it. I passed my prelim. (Hurrah! Confetti! Happy dance!) And you know what I was reminded of? God used a lot of seemingly insignificant events to help make my exam go smoothly. Trust me when I say this, I could have easily failed my prelim if one or two things hadn’t gone the way they went. Things that were out of my control. Things that I thought would actually hinder me from passing, but instead saved me from failing. Thank God that His favor was on me. Through all this, I kept thinking about these lyrics from Fred Hammond…
All things are working for me, even things I can’t see
Your ways are so beyond me,
But You said that You would let it be for my good,
So I’ll rest and just believe
Sometimes we can’t understand why God allows certain things to happen in our lives until much later. It can be weeks, months, or even years later. In our “immediate gratification” society, we expect to see positive effects right away. Shoot, if ubertwitter takes more than 5 seconds to refresh, I get annoyed. But sometimes there are things that are working that we can’t see. Chess pieces being moved into place to set up the win. I know that I sometimes struggle with staying positive in the midst of a storm, but His ways are so beyond us and He does everything for our good.
“So rest and just believe.” This is key to having any peace in your struggle. However, don’t let that line fool you. Rest doesn’t mean don’t do anything. It doesn’t mean that you can chill out and God will have everything gift wrapped for you the next morning. Rest means to continue to move forward, but without the burden of doubt or fear. That burden now belongs to Jesus. What was a struggle is now a victory.
I said it before and I’ll say it again, my preparation alone was not the reason I passed my prelim. I just thank God that all things, whether they seem beneficial or disadvantageous, are working for my good.