‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised’- Job 1:21
Hello everyone! Today, whilst finally managing to escape my English coursework, I am going to share what’s been on my heart over the past few weeks. Firstly, as always, I have to briefly summarise what I’ve been up to.. I’ve sat some exams, turned 18, had some wonderful times with wonderful friends and been left home alone for a whole week. Exciting times! As mentioned in my last blog, I really feel like 2014 is a year for looking forward and being excited, not looking back and regretting a load of things.. and one of my favourite christmas gifts; a ‘one line a day’ 5 year diary has really been helping me achieve that.. Praising God for the little things (as well as the big) every day is so rewarding, as will looking back on it all in five years time… So if it is your kind of thing, I definitely recommend that you go and buy one.. or make one of your own!
So, the verse from Job above is one which i’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks now. The first time I stumbled across those words, i was fourteen and I was extremely new to church. Like many people my age stumbling into Christian youth groups and Sunday school, the words had little meaning to me, other than the fact that they made up the core of Matt Redman’s worship song, ‘blessed be the name of the Lord’. Even this year, the truth and conviction of that verse meant very little to me- and it was still merely a case of regurgitating worship lyrics. In fact, in all honesty, it was only last month, after being a Christian for 4 years, that I realised the important of those words. Okay, so let’s break it up.
1) The Lord gives: Let’s face it everyone. This is the easy part. Even today I am still amazed by God’s goodness. He has chosen little old me to have an education, a lovely family and wonderful friends. On good days, we find it really easy to love God. Why? Because we accept what he has given to us.. our ‘hearts desires’ are being met, and we feel great, fulfilled, loved.
2) The Lord has taken away: This is where it gets a bit harder. We have to slowly acknowledge that the things we desire aren’t always what is best for us. I don’t mean this in a simple or condescending way.. I’m not referring to a thirteen year old girl who is angry at God because she doesn’t have a boyfriend. I mean things that we fall in love with, things we work for, things that we set our whole lives on.
Okay, so here’s the catch. This was me, less than a month ago, waiting for a letter in the post from Oxford university telling me whether I had been given a place or not. The other day I went back through my entries in my Jesus Journal from June (when I went on an outreach summer school to Oxford) through to August (on results day) right up until the point when I was sat in a room in Oxford unable to sleep because my interview was the next day. Needless to say, I didn’t get in. And, I can honestly tell you I thought my life was over. My first thought was, ‘what the hell am i going to do now?’ I had spent so many hours (as everyone does) crying over entrance essays, and trying to cut down 10 characters in my personal statement, I went to Oxford, met people I could have ended up living with.. ate the food (which was pretty damn good) and fell in love with it all over again… the place, the course, the opportunities I knew it would give me…. And then boooooom it was all taken away. It took a while to get over it.. sometimes when I am struggling to be motivated I still secretly say to myself, ‘what’s the point if i’m not going to Oxford?’ Eventually, with lots of prayer and perspective.. I realised. There is a life beyond my Oxford application.
3) May the name of the Lord be praised: So, for me, this was the hardest thing to come to terms with after being rejected from Oxford, and it actually applies to a lot of things in life… in fact to every time that something goes wrong. We find it hard to praise God when things aren’t going our way. We think, why should we? What are we praising him for? This is exactly what I was thinking and I had no idea how I could get over it. Eventually, after about 2 weeks, I remembered a list that I made the night before I got the rejection letter. At that point, it could have gone any way (or at least that’s what I thought whilst I was writing it) and I decided that it would be really helpful, if I didn’t get in, to write a list of reasons why I would still praise God for taking me through the whole Oxford process. Now, my heart is happy when I look at them and realise two things. 1) They are all so true and 2) I wrote them before I knew anything- for all i knew, i could have been off to Oxford the next day. I like that thought because it makes them seem so genuine, and not built on trying to make myself feel better the day after, which is exactly why I wrote them the day before.
a) Don’t ever think that you are not good enough. Part of me thinks it is funny to be writing that now after I didn’t get it.. but when I wrote that, it wasn’t applying to Oxford in particular. This time last year, I nearly didn’t apply for the Oxford summer school (where I met one of my dearest friends) because I didn’t think I would be good enough to get in. I guess my point is, you never know until you try… It is only in taking opportunities that we can learn things from them. God gives us great opportunities and we need to take them!!
b) Don’t be scared of meeting new people. Okay so that one sounds pretty simple, but I can honestly tell you that the prospect of being in a situation where I had to sit and talk to and have dinner with people I had never met scared the living daylights out of me. Because of the summer schools and the interview process, I now am a lot more fearless when walking into a crowd of new people… as long as i don’t have to ask the same questions that I did at the interviews over and over again… ‘what subject are you?…. what a levels do you do?…. are you state or private?… what other universities did you apply to?’ Note to self. You hate small talk. The best part was finding a fellow theologian who I could debate with.. that was the intellectual stuff I expected from Oxford!!
c) I love Theology: So this one, I think is the most important. I have to be honest, I read more, researched more and wrote more for Oxford than I ever would have for the other universities. I guess I felt under more pressure, and in hindsight it was a really good thing.. because I can now boldly say that Theology is the subject for me. I could talk for hours about why I can’t wait to study the bible, why I think new testament greek and hebrew are still relevant and of course, the age old question that me and Travis rehearsed in my study for far too long, ‘why do you want to study Theology?’ I guess we’ll leave that one for another day. But in short, it excites me, it’s what i’m passionate about and I cannot wait to be studying it!
So there you go… stressed, over emotional Madailein was able to put things into perspective, thanks to a whole lot of prayer, a whole lot of perspective and a whole lot of love… as well as a big bar of galaxy bought for me by my brother… So, next time you find yourself really angry at God, try this method. Breaking it down and remembering that his name is worthy to be praised.. through the good times and the bad. And with that, i’ll leave you with a tweet I posted 2 days after being rejected.
‘there is nothing that cannot be made better by the grace of God’.