It is weird, really, to think about all that I have accomplished. I am still struggling with these feelings of doubt, like I have somehow "faked" this whole ABD process. I know it is not true, and I know how hard the entire examination was (both parts). I just cannot figure out why I feel the way I do, I mean, why do I feel so let down, so awful, so confused right now?
Coming to Terms with it All
I was praying about it today, and I guess a big part of it is my pride. Yes, my pride is wounded. I don't like to show my failures, show my failings, show my flaws. Friday, my flaws, failings, and failures were all on display for six of the most important people in my life -- my professors and committee at Regent. I felt like I failed right there under the heat of the spotlight. Praise God, I passed, but still, I didn't think I did that well. I choked under pressure, and I rambled, stammered, and generally sounded uneducated. I hate that this happened to me, and rather than be the cool and collected professor I know I can be in the clinch, I simply burned. I did a face plant in the dust and the dirt. I am embarrassed at my performance, and that folks, is the rub of it.
I have tried to figure out why I feel the way I do, so awful inside. I have pushed it aside, and I have tried to come to terms with what happened on Friday. I know it went well, just not the "well" I had hoped for, prayed for, and expected. No, the Lord chose to allow me to stumble a bit, to waver, to doubt, and to be called out for my errors. It was awful, it felt awful, and while I took it with humility -- yes -- I admitted my failure when it was brought to my attention, I still felt like a school child being sent to the principle's office for discipline. UGH!
I guess I should be happy that I passed. I knew going in that my professors would be this way, and that they would "test and try" me. I guess I survived it with minor scratches and bruises, but still, I felt that it was a "trial by fire," and I simply didn't like it. My colleague described her experience as "fun." Not so with me. I mean, even though my professors laughed all the way through, which is a good thing (so I am told), I still hated the feeling that I performed so poorly. I simply didn't show my best to them, and that bothers me greatly. God knows what I can and cannot do, and for some reason, He chose for me to show this side to them. He chose for me to be humbled through this process, and for that, I know there was good reason.
The more I think about my experience, the more I realize that what I am feeling is a hurt sense of pride. Yes, I am feeling wounded, and that explains why I feel so awful today. My pride has been bruised. My true side has been exposed, and for all my efforts at hiding myself well, the light of God's glory has revealed all the chinks in my armor. I have been exposed, and frankly, I don't like that feeling at all.
He Chooses Whom to Lift Up
James says it this way in chapter four, verses 5-6:
Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."
Similarly, we read the words of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew 23:12 and Luke 14:11, where He says,
I remember these verses, and I know that God is aware of my position, the fragility of it, and the way in which I struggle to overcome my own feelings and fears of inadequacy. I realize today, just now for that matter, that the reason I feel the way I do is simply because I didn't perform to my own expectations, and while I passed (there is only pass or fail), I didn't control the situation the way I had hoped to control it. I flubbed it, I faltered my way through it, and I finished it without any real effort on my part. I know this is because the test on Friday was designed for one purpose -- to reveal my weaknesses -- and for certain, it did do that. What is more, I know for a fact that I cannot take any credit for my "win" in VA. You see, I showed up. I walked through the fire. I went into that conference room and did my best. But, I didn't succeed. No, the Lord did. He showed up, and He did what He always does -- He lit the room up -- and my professors graciously bestowed upon me the confirmation of my passing. Thus, the reason I feel the way I do is because I am trying to take credit for something that is not due to me. I am trying to align my performance (poor) with the outcome (good). It doesn't match up. My performance was a mere shadow of His, and it was His performance that merited the "pass." Of this, I now know.
I humbly confess this to the Lord. I mean, it was on Friday as I walked from the Founders Inn and Spa (where I was staying) to the COM Arts building for my oral defense that I prayed for the Lord to be glorified. I asked Him to take the lead, to receive all the glory, and for me, in short, to be humbled. I didn't want to be exalted. I didn't want to take any credit for the "passing" of the defense. I knew that what I had done up to that point was peanuts. The Lord had done it all -- all the papers, the tests, the discussion board posts, the writing timed essay answers, etc. I did nothing by show up and do the work assigned to me. He did everything else, and as a result, I passed each class with an "A" and then finally passed my qualification exams to advance to candidacy. I realize now that this process, this awful, difficult, and tiring process is part of the proving ground for receiving an advanced degree. You have to go through it to come out on the other side. You have to be tested in this way in order to receive this high honor.
I remember the Lord saying to me that He was going to exalt me, to lift me up, in some way. I thought, "Oh no, Lord! Please do not lift me up!" I know what comes when He does that -- usually -- some sort of pain follows afterwards. In many ways, He chose to humble me on Friday, to allow me to suffer humility in this way for a purpose. He knows me well. He knows how I like to hide in the shadows. He knows that I prefer to do "behind the scenes work" and not be in the spotlight. Yet, He has chosen for me to follow a path that puts me in a most uncomfortable spot -- in the spotlight -- in the heat and fray of His work.
I am thinking about this today, how my peace has been zapped, and how I feel so unwell right now. Yet, there is this abiding sense that all is right, even though I feel awful today. I mean, nothing has changed on His part. He is ROCK STEADY, and that means that I am able to cling to Him and know that I will not be left behind or lost. Yes, He is my victor and my champion, and I am nothing. I have been emptied out, my brain dumped for the purpose of passing these exams, and all that is left of me is bits and pieces of ragged hope. I cling to the hope that is my Lord, and I trust in His provision this good, good day.
Just yesterday, I panicked BIG TIME when I started to look for more full-time work opportunities. I thought to myself, "Lord, I am not going to make it as a teacher. I need to get out of this business PDQ!" I scanned the higheredjobs.com website only to see positions that were not a good fit for my skills or my experience. I feel so ill-prepared to teach now (why, I don't know), and what is more, I feel as though I will never get out of debt, never have a good income, and never be able to accomplish anything to improve my situation one iota.
The funny thing is this -- I actually thought that this whole PhD thing was a waste of time and money. Yes, I let that thought linger for a short while this morning. I mean, I owe a "house" in school loans and frankly the likelihood that I will get a good paying job to pull me out of debt is slim to nil. Who am I kidding? I mean, I am not that great of a teacher, not skilled in scholarship, and I am old, so very old (compared to fresh young teachers coming out with newly minted PhDs)! Sigh!
I guess I need to remember the WORD of God that says that it is in His sovereignty that He exalts whom He chooses to exalt. He lifts whom He chooses to lift, and He blesses whom He chooses to bless. God is in control, not me. He has this plan for my life, and it is not of my creation or making. Chesterton said once that "God and man made it" speaking of philosophy, and he was right. I simply accepted what I believed to be God's revelation to me. In truth, I have changed my life, altered my path, and walked in this way -- all because I believed that God revealed His will for my life to me. He personally gave me testimony that He desired for me to walk a certain way, to do certain things, and to become a certain type of person. I up ended my entire life, changed it all, gave it away so to speak, because I believe that God was calling me, asking me, to follow after Him. I have followed. I have listened. I have obeyed. Now I must continue to do that and to not allow the enemy to make mincemeat of my current feelings of inadequacy. He is good, so very good to me. He knows me best, and He has a great plan for my life. I know He has me well covered this good, good day.
I am sorry for allowing my pride, my wounded pride to keep me from remembering what I said to you on Friday. I asked you to be glorified through the exam process, and you did just that. You received all praise, all honor, and all glory. I suffered through the process. I endured it, as you said I would have to do, and then I felt insulted that I had performed so poorly. Yet, I passed, and that is miraculous at best. You did this, from beginning to end, and now I am feeling as if I should have more honor. I am sorry this has happened, and I confess it to you now because I know this is just the beginning of it all. You have a great plan for my life, and I have to be willing to go through the fire whenever you need me to be tested this way. I let go this good day. I relinquish control. I let you guide me, direct me, and provide for me. I ask now that you do whatever is necessary to bring me through this last phase of the process, to finish strong. May your Name be praised, and may you receive all honor and blessing due your good, good Name this day. In Jesus' Name I ask, amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!