Timing, pleasing and a furnace.

Hi folks, We received the following from a great friend of ours and I believe that some of the things that they say here are well worth having a read and think about. With her permission we have published it up here on DM, but even if you do guess who it is, she would appreciate it if in any likes or comments, you maintain their anonymity.

My dearest family and friends,

There is a proverb which is simply attributed to being an ‘African proverb’ which goes like this: “however long the night, the dawn will break”. I found this proverb quite fitting for the past few months or better said since the beginning of the year as I’ve been trying to finish writing my PhD thesis. And what an extremely long ‘night’ it turned out to be! For a while it felt like the dawn would never come. Sometimes I thought I had finally seen the glimmer of light breaking the blackness of night but then BAM – a curveball knocked me down – and  I found myself back in the darkness again wondering if dawn will ever break. But praise be to the Lord God on High for drawn has broken – I have finished my draft PhD thesis!!! Aside from the pure relief of having conquered the most challenging part of this journey I also am filled with gratitude for all the things I have learned over the course of these past 4 years, 2 months and 6 days. Not that I’ve been counting 😉 The journey is still ongoing as I wait for my supervisors to review my thesis and hopefully with just a few minor corrections, my thesis will then be submitted to 3 external supervisors. They get 3 months to read my thesis and give their recommendation on whether it is passable as a PhD thesis or not. Normally the examiners will recommend at least some minor changes for it to be passable. I then have to consider their feedback and make changes where it is reasonable. Provided the university is happy with how I’ve addressed the examiners’ feedback, I then get awarded my Doctorate of Philosophy (Engineering) and my thesis gets published available for all to read. So it’ll probably take until early next year before I’m officially ‘Dr’. (provided my thesis passes).

If I went through all the things I’ve learned it probably would be another thesis of itself so I will just go with the highlights. As a matter of fact, I am now convinced that the reason why my thesis has dragged out until now is largely because there were a couple of key lessons I still needed to learn before I could get to this point.

  1. God does not operate on our time schedules. He is never too early, never too late, but always right on time, His perfect time.

I have learned this in several different ways, from the timing of finding a new home, waiting on finances to come through for overseas travel and other big ventures, and of course my thesis! It can be extremely stressful and nerve wrecking until God gently reminds me that He’s got this and since He’s in it, it will happen at the right time. He sees the bigger picture, the beginning and the end of everything while I only see a tiny fraction of the now. As soon as I throw out my timeline and schedule and commit to listening to His leading instead, I find the storm of my worries and anxiousness become silent and suddenly I’m sailing on calm seas once again.

  1. I am here to please God, not man. 

This is a lesson that I have only fully come face-to-face with in this past year. I wanted to finish my thesis in June 2016 (My schedule not God’s) because that was when I hit the magical 3 year mark of my PhD and good students, as I had been taught from day 1, finish their thesis in 3 years. Taking 3.5 years is still pretty good. After all, your scholarship can be extended until then, but go beyond that and you’re ‘one of those’ students who take forever to finish. It started already in October last year, that feeling of failure, like I’m letting everyone down because I said I’d be finished with my thesis by around June 2016, or by the end of the year for sure. December came and I had to face the reality of still not being finished. I pressed on, telling people hopefully by the end of the month, then the next month and on it went, feeling more and more like a failure with each passing month. I dreaded bumping into people at uni or at gatherings who I hadn’t seen for a few months and having the respond to the question “so you’ve finished now right?” or “how’s your thesis going?” and “how much longer have you got to go?” A few days before my birthday I reached rock bottom. I told my Sister “I’m thinking of cancelling my celebrations altogether because what is there to celebrate – I still haven’t finished my thesis.” After my sister quickly rebuked this lie, I embraced my birthday with joy and delight and was blessed with exceptional celebrations with friends and family – yes multiple celebrations. Soon after the 4 year mark came and I had to apply for an extension to my enrolment, which was granted, thankfully. I thought I was close to finishing so what’s a couple of weeks over the 4 year mark, right? Bam! Another curveball – I found another mistake in my model which meant another month or so of running data through AGAIN and updating results. Tedious to say the least. I asked God that night to please reveal and more mistakes to me now as I can’t take another setback like this. A few weeks later, I was down on the ground as I found another mistake. After taking the day off from uni and my thesis, I dusted myself off, took a deep breath and dived back into my thesis, rather battered and bruised. I lifted my hands and said “Heavenly Father only you know when I will finish this thesis. The timing is clearly out of my hands, I hand it over to you.” I decided from then on that if people asked me when I will finish I will tell them to ask God, but no-one asked me. I had finally learned lesson 1.

A week passed and I found myself a bit down again that my thesis is taking so long. As it happened, I caught up with a dear friend that evening who gently prodded and asked why the timing of my thesis bothered me so much. I started listing off – feeling like I’m letting myself and my supervisors down, losing face with all the people who I told I’d be finished by now, and being ‘one of those’ students who are slow to finish. My friend kindly pointed out that perhaps I had judged myself and some of ‘those’ students too harshly and that at the end of the day any delays now will be overshadowed by all the good things that will come out of my completed thesis. For a few moments I battled internally to let go of the lie that I was a let-down as a PhD student and then I repented to God for having judged myself and others so harshly. When Sunday came, I found myself responding to the alter call at church, declaring to God that I need His help and want to step out of the ‘self-conscious’ (or ‘worrying about what other people think’) box.

Not too long before this conversation, another dear friend spoke into my life as she reminded me of the power of letting go – putting all the worries, anxiousness, and any burdens of the circumstances or challenges that we are facing into God’s hands.

This was all very timely as I then was faced with trying to balance multiple jobs and projects with trying to still finish my thesis. Finally,  I learned to hand each day over to God. To ask Him to lead and seek Him on what I should do each day. Instead of having a long, unrealistic list in my head of all the things I want to achieve in a day (which only left me feeling more behind and failure at the end of the day), I now have just a couple of things that God highlights for me to focus on for the day. I have been relieved of the burden of worrying whether I am doing enough or whether I am letting others down. Instead I am satisfied knowing that I am doing all that God has called me to for today. And on the days where I am falling short on this, I am reminded that our Heavenly Father is gracious and kind. I can face tomorrow knowing that His mercies will be brand new.

  1. Sometimes God lets us be thrown into the furnace because he knows we will come out refined and unbound.

Another friend said to me recently “sounds like you’ve come out of the fire”. Yes I certainly have. I have been humbled and refined, specifically in this past year. It was more than just my PhD. Needless to say I had moments where I felt like my hope had burnt out. I couldn’t see what was up ahead and how to press on. All I knew was to ask God to hold on to me. Martin Luther (the Reformer) said “I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all, but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” I am realising that the more we learn to surrender our lives into God’s hands, the more free we become. The world tells us to hold on to our right to do whatever we please or makes us feel good but Jesus said “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.”  I have learnt not to despise the hard times but to embrace them knowing that I’ll come out of it having lost some more baggage that was weighing me down and having gained much ground on the journey to being all that I have been called to be.

While I am extremely grateful to have completed my PhD thesis, I cannot marvel or be proud of the work of my own hands but much more of all the things that God has taught me and been able to move in, through, and around me during this time. There is no love, no joy, no peace that is as pure as that which is found through our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else will always leave you unsatisfied. He truly is the living water, drink from Him and you’ll never be thirsty again.

Thank you for all your prayers and support during this marathon, it has made all the difference and has not gone unnoticed.


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