Since I began my new job at a university a month and a half ago, not only has it been a dream come true but as well as a constant reminder of how far I’ve come in the past few years. Last week were the fall convocation ceremonies, and I couldn’t help but think of my own ceremony in 2018 and looking back it was one of the best days of my life. Leading up to that day and the entire last year of my program had God’s hand print all over it. There were things that happened that I knew without a doubt could only happen by the hand of God.
So in light of last week’s convocation, I’m sharing my own graduation testimony to encourage not only students who are in the midst of their programs, but also those who may have given up on their dream of graduating.
There Must Be More Than This
I was the type of person that had my 20’s pretty much mapped out from when I was in middle school – what university I was going to, the program I would apply to, when I would graduate, where I would volunteer, the whole works. But one thing I didn’t account for, or maybe was naive to was life. The reality of life, it doesn’t always follow the exact path on your map, or fit into your preferred timeline. I think everyone can agree that at some point in their life they had to take a detour, the amount of time of that detour is different for everyone, or how aggressive said detour may be, but all in all everyone has experienced having to adjust on the fly to a detour that’s staring them right in the face.
After a few challenging personal circumstances I found myself a university dropout. My one saving grace being that I’ve always had the favor of finding amazing jobs that I’m nowhere near qualified for, but allow me to sustain myself and learn new skills that have always helped me later on down the road. But the danger I found myself in was living from a place of complacency. For a period of time I was comfortable going to work, going home, occasionally seeing my friends and family and repeating that routine. The feeling of comfort was short lived when the questions from family started to get more frequent like, when are you planning on going back to school? When are you going to graduate? How many more classes do you have to take to complete your program?
The simple answer was I didn’t know. I didn’t know how I was going to finish, or when. I was scared to admit out loud that I didn’t have a plan. In the time I spent working, I used it as an excuse to continue running away from school because I failed so miserably at it the first time. How do you begin to overcome something that has completely crushed your confidence?
Faith and a renewed spirit – those were the tools I used to rebuild my confidence. Faith was the assurance that God wasn’t finished writing my story. That where I was in that moment wasn’t the end, but my story was still being written by God each day. My renewed spirit reignited the warrior within me that refused to be defeated and I knew ultimately where my strength really came from. In this time I noticed that I had the ability to dream beyond my current situation, and those dreams included graduating.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me Your generous Spirit.Psalms 51:12 (NKJV)
So full of faith I restarted my journey, and on January 3, 2017 I walked into my first Criminology class in what seemed like forever, this time more confident, focused, and at peace.
A God of the Promise
Going back to before I walked back into class, God reminded me that He’s a God of the promise. If I was faithful to Him, he would surely be faithful to me.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)
Things that should’ve been difficult to do, or shouldn’t have been possible at all within the given time frames became possible. I didn’t have the required prerequisites for some classes, so in order to take some of them concurrently I needed special permission from instructors and Deans. When I was looking at the application, it was overwhelming to say the least because they’re no joke, and at minimum take a few weeks to process. But God said, call the department and ask for permission. I was like why? They are going to tell me to fill out the application that was already staring me in the face. But I obeyed – and when I called the department, the program assistant gave me permission for every course that I needed to take, right then and there… on the spot… no application needed! Again it was the favor of God!
The job that I was at allowed me to completely change my schedule so I could start earlier in the morning in order for me to take afternoon and evening classes. I wasn’t even there six months before they allowed me to do that. It was a sacrifice to wake up at 5 am and ultimately be at school until 10 pm most nights, but what got me through that was knowing that I was being kept over and over by God. I had so much more than I needed.
My finances were more than stable in this time as well, I was even able to pay for parking every day I needed to be at school. When I first began university there was no way I could’ve dreamed about having a car. But this time around I gave the first fruit of my finances to God and he multiplied the rest. God taught me to put my trust in Him wholeheartedly – to rely on Him for fresh manna each day.
Sometimes when you receive something that is beyond words and beyond what you can comprehend, the only thing you can say is “thank you“; and as simple as those two words may seem they perfectly convey the depth of your emotions. For many weeks after I finished my final exams, the only thing I could do was thank God – in prayer, in worship, in giving. Just anyway I could return thanks I did. Because I knew that God prepared the path I was supposed to walk for that entire year.
So to all of the current students may you continue to be sustained by God to finish strong. To all of the future students may you develop an unshakable faith to know that God will be by your side; and to all the students who may have given up on the dream of graduating, may your dream be renewed, may your dream be awakened by the word of God, and may the light to your flame be fanned by the presence of God – that it shall never go out!