Ever wonder if something was coincidence or if it was meant to be? Is it a sign? Or is it just the flow of life? These are some of the thoughts wandering through my heart this morning. How interesting to recall stones of remembrance this morning. How interesting that life caused me to switch my normal day of writing to this day. I am writing this on Thursday for publishing tomorrow.
There was a time I would have been trying to connect the dots, hoping for a clear picture. Yet, the cynicism of my character prevents me from hoping, from daring to believe that an answer is immerging.
I am pondering a very important decision. I wish I had given more thought to this decision years ago. I remember sitting at the computer ten years ago. I remember thinking, it’s not too late. The echo of “you’re a loser” was screaming in my soul. Words do hurt leaving inerasable imprints on the soul. I would go back to school. Ecstatic, I opened the letter of acceptance from Vanderbilt Divinity School. Ever practical, despite a scholarship, I counted the cost and said, no… tenaciously holding on to the dream, I looked to Trevecca. In what seemed like a miracle of divine providence, I was able to start classes within days of application. I would squeeze my large body into seats next to barely grown undergraduates – I was taking the class for graduate credit but sitting with undergrads.
Time moved on – ups and downs – a business opened, a business closed… but the school continued. The two years for graduation turned into four. Finally, I finished. For ten minutes – or maybe a day or two – I felt like I was no longer a loser. I wore a cap and gown for the first time in my life. More importantly, I also found I was a great student and loved learning.
Next stop – seminary, the goal the equivalent of a Masters of Divinity, the needed qualifications for the ultimate goal of DOCTOR. In my head, I believed the myth that I would no longer be a loser if I achieved that... I quickly learned that a Master’s degree was not enough. A sour and distracted professor who repeated the mantra of “I’m not optimistic that you can get a ministry placement” once again dashed hopes.
Finally, I looked else were – acceptance at two EdD programs boosted my bruised morale. I chose. I chose Trevecca, my alma mater. The air smelled sweet as I walked the familiar Trevecca paths once again.
That was a year and a half ago. Today I will meet with my adviser to discuss withdrawing from the program. Why? The reasons are too many to list. My age, my unemployability, my concerns for the burgeoning debt while facing retirement, lack of enough participation in my research study, my need for purpose and participation in life – as well as a host of small demons that rear their head. I’ve discovered that an EdD is not a good enough degree either. Only the exalted PhD will do.
But today, as I think of stones of remembrance, my mind goes back to that first summer intensive. So excited and so scared I moved into room 101 of Georgia Hall at Trevecca. For nine days I would experience what I had never experienced in my youth – life in a college dorm. While I found myself alone and isolated most of the time, I still was excited about life and the experience. I felt like I was coming out of a very long dark winter of hibernation. I felt alive. I felt I had slayed Goliath as I drove from campus that summer.
In a solemn act one day, our cohort was led in a stones of remembrance. Mine was prism shaped. We were to write on the stone our name, on the other side, why we were here. I thought; I pondered. It was a solemn moment. I wrote “Glorify God.” Stones were collected. A prayer was offered. We were given that stone again last summer to keep with us during the grueling days of the summer intensive. It sits in a box on campus waiting for my return next summer. But will I be there to collect it?
How odd to write about stones of remembrance on this day – on this day where my educational future is uncertain. Is this degree more about glorifying God than about my future? I can’t connect the dots.
A professor gave a devotional in one of my classes. He talked of Penuel (Genesis 32:24-32). He spoke of the lone graduate student, in the middle of the night, wrestling over the dissertation and the work. He spoke of God coming and meeting the student. Today, I will go to a retreat center named Penuel Ridge to see if I want to do some volunteer work there – I need to be out and contribute more – why not? But how odd it is Penuel.
Today, as I ponder the stone of remembrance that says “glorify God” and plan a visit to Penuel, I wonder… is it a sign? Is there a message? I do not know…