Friday, March 1, 2013

Reflections on God's Timing




At the beginning of the New Testament, Christ's genealogy was presented. Forty-two generations from Abraham to Jesus. So much waiting for the coming Messiah. It does make you wonder: is God really so slow, so unresponsive, that He can't quickly save the people He swore is His?

We live in an age when time has to move at the speed of light. Heck, we can't even work patiently at a computer game; a few levels of playing and we're already looking for a crack code to the best bits. That we are made to bear frustration for another day, instead of  enjoying immediate gratification, is perceived as a tragedy.

In reflection, perhaps our lack of eagerness to wait is less about patience as much as an inability to fully grasp what it means for things to happen "in God's time." While yes, it's brilliant that we are powerful enough to change the world --- faith  in no way negates personal agency --- Christians are also asked to appreciate how God's sense of timing (or God's plan as a whole) may be different from their sense of timing. For if you are of the belief that God's will equates with the ultimate good, then your duty is to trust and not to insist that you know better. Basically, stay still. It is in childlike trust that faith is sharpened and made more concrete, for the death to one's self is the very thing that faith requires.

Right now I am trying to finish my graduate thesis --- a paper that is more than five years overdue. When you think about it, I have no good excuse for having not written it in time; as a writer by profession, I have completed longer, more complicated, and more artistically demanding products. That I should find it difficult to complete a relatively simple revision (I have already defended my paper years ago) is comedy gold.

The main plot of this comedy involves me having turned this paper from a mouse to a monster. See, somewhere near the end of my course units, a personally traumatic experience happened to me, and it triggered the onset of what I am now enlightened enough to label as Bipolar Disorder I. I went through a roller coaster ride typical of many mood disorders: from overwhelming mania that almost earned me a restraining order, to suicidal lows, and right back to manic highs again. My MA degree has become a glaring reminder of that period in my life that I want to forget, but somehow became a record player horribly stuck on loop mode in my head. I hate my thesis, I am scared shitless of graduating, I have this love-hate relationship with all my pain finally becoming over --- and yes you can make all sorts of psychoanalysis from that. Even now when I have been granted a generous second chance by my school (I've passed the allowed years of residency for a graduate student), thesis writing fills me with so much anxiety that I again missed the deadline set for me. I've finished a really (at least to my standard) good  and hopefully final draft --- but it may not get accepted anymore. The thought of failing again, after so much unfinished work because of my BD, fills me with dread that I have called people to watch out for my sanity. Such is my past week.

So do I continue to blame myself, or my mental illness, for not being able to accomplish what otherwise is a very simple thing? Or could it be, maybe, just maybe, that it's not in God's plan for me to have submitted it back in the day, or that I submit my paper at all? It could very well be that it's not meant to be, although I am hopeful and I know that my hope is good. I probably sound like I am merely rationalizing mediocrity, but I actually think God is trying to teach me a valuable life lesson, a lesson that I forgot to learn the first few times He tried to teach it to me. The lesson is: there is more to life than achieving things.

I am in no way the sharpest tool in the shed, but I do believe I am overly attached to being good at what I do. I try too hard to "accomplish" when my role is to simply "be." I've forgotten what really matters: that being a Christian is firstly about sitting at the feet of Christ, as Martha did. Industry is good --- things don't get done by themselves --- but to get too attached to getting things done, and done well, is a disservice to Divine providence.

See, demanding that things happen when we want it, exactly how we want it, takes the rightful focus from God to one's self. With "why not this?" and "why not now?" we forget the bigger purpose of our existence: to be used for His greater glory.  Fixating on what is not happening keeps God from using us in the here and now,  possibly in a way that will make us grow. For at the end of the day, what does trust in God's timing mean? Does it mean a passive "I will sit here and just wait for God to work miracles?" No. Trust in God's time means "Use me now, Lord, in however way you please, regardless of what my circumstance happens to be." Availability to God is worship, it's service, and in some cases, it's fellowship. Definitely, it's love. Christ love for us is mainly by His ever present welcome to those who desire His presence. And we are exhorted to respond in kind.

There is victory that comes with trusting in God's time. Take my accursed paper for example. Its quality is so much better now that I have given the ideas some time to percolate. The material is so much more relevant now too as related literature have surfaced making stronger analysis possible. Hence, its more useful. Whether I publish it for my school or for simply under my own byline, it will do more for the world as it is today. The victory of finishing a graduate paper now is also so much more sweeter, as it came despite hidden disability. Had I obtained my degree 5 or 6 years ago, it would have meant nothing, just another step towards an increase in paygrade. Now, it's a symbol of triumph. A triumph based on the strength that God loans to me.

But the most important thing about having had mental illness that kept me from following the life trajectory I initially set for myself is the knowledge that my plans are not important after all. Nor are they the right plans for me to have made. All the crying spells taught me to look for others, to seek help and to give it --- for I was clammed tight for so long I've forgotten I am not an island. I was simultaneously the expert and the most ignorant person as far as emotions are concerned. And all that mania? Hopefully it has made me humbler and more forgiving. We all do things we wish we didn't, and it is, like Jean Valjean, in the forgiving eyes of others that we regain a modicum of self-respect. Knowledge of this is way more important than two letters affixed to your name.

Knowing what I know now about my life, I still would have things happen as they did. So perhaps, perhaps indeed, there may be Someone out there who knows what He's doing.

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