my exams are now over, and the rest of my life beginneth. my future it hangs in the balance. this is the scenario:
just before my exams began, my tutor sent me a single emailed sentence which read like this: “Just a brief e-mail to wish you well for your exams, which I believe start tomorrow. Just do your best, and hopefully you’ll get the 2.i required to switch to Theology.” (well, two sentences). this was the first i’d heard about definitely needing a 2.i — perhaps the message had been delayed because my tutor had been away sailing for most of the term; perhaps she had assumed that as this was basically what she’d suggested all along would be the case, there was no point specifically declaring when the decision from the tutorial commitee came through. anyway, i — being on the brink of exams — did not have time to worry about such things, and so attempted to not give it undue consideration and get on with passing my mathematical papers.
unfortunately, those papers have not gone impeccably. and i am now faced with the very likely prospect of a 2.ii. possibly a 3rd if i am marked harshly; only a 2.i if God is inexplicably merciful. it is not so long ago that STEP left me in a remarkably similar position. but this is different, for whereas two years ago i had no idea what i wanted to do with my life but only a vague (but nevertheless powerful) desire to get into cambridge, now i do know what i want to do.
which is to say that i want to live for Jesus, explicitly and unashamedly, without holding back. john piper has much to say in rebuke of people who waste their lives; according to him the essence of an unwasted life is “a life that puts the infinite value of Christ on display for the world to see”. six months ago i had lost all sense of direction, and much confidence, and was desperately searching for a passing ship onto which i could escape from my sinking raft of mathematics. and i thought “linguistics?” and would have hoped for salvation there had it been offered. but salvation can be found only in Jesus! — and because i was unable to switch to linguistics immediately i waited, and considered other possibilities; and theology suggested itself. and in the mean time God was grasping hold of me, in a way that in some ways was just a continuation of things that have been having over the last few years, but was also radically different: more certain, more irresistible, more powerful.
i lay in bed on monday night of last week, my first exam the next morning, various thoughts floating through my mind, specifically futuristic anxieties; i pictured myself as a man on a mountain-top, asking an empty black sky ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ — and immediately the black sky replied, in booming voice, ‘I AM here. I have not forsaken you’. God is faithful, and since the start of this calendar year i have seen that in ever-increasing measure. in prayer — on castle mound, in various 24/7 prayer rooms, with two or three come together in the name of Jesus, alone behind closed doors — i have been overwhelmed, not so much by the answers to prayer (though there have been answers), but by the nearness of God: for “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” Deut. 4:7. and in the witness of others to the work of God in their lives: the myriad replies to my new year’s question ‘what does being a christian mean to you?’; the transformation that reading the bible has achieved in Jamie.
not long after i returned from india — near the start of michaelmas term — i had a dream. i can only remember the essence of it. there was a brilliant light overhead, and it came down upon me. and i was filled with joy. then i was in a circle of people, trying to share this joyful radiance. that is all i can really remember. i cannot really recall the details. i remember the joy.
now this has begun to be fulfilled, in some small way. in the same room where i had that dream, i have sat on many a monday evening (for as many as seven hours — these people are craaazy), and attempted (without mindblowing success) to share this joy that i have found in Jesus.
what i want to do is to be an evangelist.
i said this last night, to simon; who is my one-to-one mentor from barney’s; to whom i have not spoken for all of this term because of business. and he said, ‘you already are’. which was an encouragement.
about a month ago, on a friday, i was fasting, and rather than eat i read an epistle: 1 timothy for breakfast, 2 timothy for lunch, titus for dinner. 😉 i am serious — man shall not live on bread alone. and while i know the importance of not reading every line of God-breathed Scripture as a direct message to yourself, i felt that i too was called to “fan into flame the gift of God”, to “do the work of an evangelist”. for as timothy’s gift was prophesied when the elders laid their hands on him; so, on the day that in retrospect i consider to have been the moment i gave my whole life to Christ, chad said (prophesied!) that God has great plans for me in ministry. and that evening i went to joey’s house (joey, like chad, is an american on fire with the spirit in a way that I have not really seen elsewhere), and rather than go from worship to bible study as per normal, we went from worship into prayer, and joey laid hands on me and prayed. which was also a confirmation of these things.
now, in terms of the near future, what does this mean? the answer is i am not sure.
should i be allowed to switch to theology, i would study four papers:
– introduction to christian theology,
– paul’s epistles,
– life and thought of hinduism and buddhism,
this would be half christian study and half indian religion. this would not only coincide most perfectly with my interests (i finished reading yesterday ‘the christ of the indian road’ by e.s. jones; a book from eighty years ago that gives the impression that india is on the brink of believing in jesus… i digress), but would also probably be useful preparation for wherever i might end up. for while i will probably end up in india for some time in the next decade of my life, i could stay there only three years, or five, or ten, or a lifetime. i do not know. should i be allowed to switch to theology, i think i would have the choice as to whether or not i stayed for a fourth year. i’m not sure when i would have to decide by. in a perfect world, taryn would end up in cambridge studying something that year, and i would stay. this world is not yet perfect. so if she is to remain in india, it might make more sense to join her there and then.
should i not be allowed to switch, there seems no point at all in continuing to do mathematics. in some ways, given what i want to do with my life, it would make more sense to abandon my degree and go and stay at sahara for a year or so, accepting neville’s challenge to drop everything and learn from him what it means to do Real Christianity. after the exam on thurday morning — probably the worst of all my papers — i returned to my room with the feeling of a 2.i having slipped out of my tenuous grasp, and faced with the choice of attempting to revise algebraic theorems or reading the gospel of matthew, i chose the one of greater eternal significance (and after all, our four papers are essentially the same, so there was little preparation i could do that had not already been done). and when you read the whole of matthew all at once, what strikes you is the call to discipleship: the kingdom is near, when you find it then — like the merchant with the pearl — give up everything else, so as to take hold of it. this is what the disciples do when they are called. and on the other hand, when people make excuses, Jesus’ reply is to let the dead bury their own dead. surely the same applies to letting the dead get their degrees? hudson taylor went to china without having finished his medical studies.
and i know that i be prone to sensationalism, without thinking things through properly, and this is not something to be done lightly. and i also know that in oh so many ways, i have much to learn (both in terms of doctrine and in terms of life) before i will be a christian example to anyone. but the disciples were fairly inept, and that didn’t stop them. on thursday evening, having been thinking along these lines, i read psalm 95 (i have been reading through the psalms, one in the morning, one in the evening), and its message is “today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts”.
my tutor meeting was supposed to be yesterday; it has been postponed until tomorrow evening. so at the moment, i do not know precisely how the situation stands.
if God wants me to be at cambridge studying theology next year, it is well within his power to either let me get a 2.i, or let it not matter that i don’t. of this i am certain. and if i am not to be at cambridge next year, i have faith that he has greater plans for me, that when i seek him with all my heart i will find him.
see you soon,
ps. pray for me.
pps. pray also for hannah, who is a second year at selwyn, baptised this term, who is in a similar position in that she wants to switch to theology, but is not sure she’s got the grade to do so; it is nice to have someone in the same position as i.