For as long as I have been a student, I have always been a bit indifferent about this time of year. On one hand, my birthday is in a matter of days and Christmas is in a matter of weeks. On the other hand, finals and final papers reign. Even though I have been a student for just about all my life, I have noticed that this time of year affects me a lot more lately. I find that finishing papers and studying for exams takes a lot more effort than it once did. It is difficult to stay motivated. Although I understand that being in a PhD program requires a higher level of work than anything else I had ever experienced before, I still feel that something is amiss.
A few days ago, I started praying about my difficulties with motivation and God responded in record time. The conversation went something like this:
“God, I know you’ve been good to me, yet I have this habit of waiting until the absolute last minute to complete any assignments and then asking you to perform a miracle by helping me complete my assignments on time. I know I need to do better. I just don’t know why I do this.”
God said “You’re afraid of success. You need to trust that I made you good enough to live the life that I designed for you.”
As I thought about God’s response, I began to reflect on how different my life was three years ago. I was preparing for ordination and for the launch of Your Will Christian Ministries. I had just taken on a new part-time job and I was headed into what I hoped would be my final semester of PhD-related coursework. I was so much more optimistic back then. I felt like I was unstoppable. Then I had a series of terrible reality checks that made me question just about everything I knew. I felt like my pursuit of success made me a target for negativity and opposition. I internalized the attacks my confidence took a major hit.
Now, it’s three years later and I find myself in a pretty similar place. I am preparing for the largest performance I’ve ever done with my original music. (It’s a church that holds 300, but I’ve got to start somewhere.) I have recently started helping another church plant with their praise & worship sets, and I am headed into what should actually be my final semester of PhD-related coursework in a new program. As a result, fear has started to set in and I began to revert to my default behavior, which leads me to either hide or act like I’m invisible in spite of being 6’2″ with locs down my back. I would rather not relive the past three years again and it seems like my increased caution has been more of a hindrance than a help.
God has been working with me on trust for a while now. That was a big part of the reason that I started cutting back on my writing for this blog. I needed to make sure that I was in the right frame of mind before sharing insights with others. On some level, I understand that trusting God is the key to my success and I know that God is faithful. However, my past experiences make trusting seem like a long and arduous process.
Thankfully, God has still been revealing himself to me. He has shown me that obstacles are integral parts of the journey to success and has made me aware of the value of perseverance. God also made it clear to me that successful people are often targets for negativity and opposition because of their high profiles. They come with the territory so I should expect them. The key is figuring out how to rise above them. In the past, I attempted to protect myself by hiding from any signs of negativity or opposition. In hindsight, that only allowed negativity and opposition to back me into a corner, which made my fear even worse.
For now, my goal is to push myself out of hiding a bit each day.