(This short series, previewing my upcoming book, talks about how God changed the trajectory of my life during my college years. Earlier entries are:
Your “Success” – NOT God’s Plan? (my story)
800 Youth in Wild Friendship with God (my story, pt. 2)
Pulled into the Wilderness (my story, pt. 3)
So it was, that while Jesus grew clearer to me, the career path forward grew fuzzier. Feeling compelled to stay up long nights, I would arrive at class late, at times. High school friends who had been casual at best in their schooling were now figuring out how to study and getting more disciplined. For me, my ironclad academic convictions seemed to be melting like the candle stick around its wick. Was I losing my way?
I remember a psychology class I took. The professor was one of the finest and most effective instructors I ever had. And that’s exactly what alarmed me. The university’s psychology department had a long history intertwined with Abraham Maslow and his humanistic approach. The instructor brilliantly proliferated those ideas in such a way that, intentionally or unintentionally, delegitimized religious faith. It wasn’t brutish or heavy-handed; it was subtle, and that’s what unnerved me. I felt the current of my classmates being secularized before my very eyes.
In the second of the three big exams of the class, I picked up the paper and sat at the desk. Looking over the questions, I was repulsed by the humanistic dogma in front of me. I wish I could recall the exact questions, but what I clearly remember is that, even though I knew most of the answers, I found them so revolting, and the themes so coolly dismissive of the revelation of Christ I held dear, that something snapped in me.
I could no longer continue. I had to protest this.
After staring at the page for three or four minutes, I stood back up, with my name on the paper, and turned it in back to the professor, utterly blank, earning me a big, fat zero. I could not submit to what was before me.
Was it a spiritual unction or fleshly impulse? I can’t say.
In the end, I salvaged a C in the class.
Every person’s walk of faith is different, and obedience looks different to every person. I affirm those whom Christ leads to serve him through academic excellence, but what Christ required of me in order to make him Lord in my life was for scholarly excellence to be displaced as my highest pursuit. And the journey downward would grow more painful yet.
As the path continued through the fog of uncertainty, I took a day to fast and pray about my career plans, and specifically, urgently, what major I would pursue.
Would the Lord direct me to going to counseling or medicine and help heal those with broken lives and bodies? Would he direct me to take advantage of the rising boom in technology and go into computer science, bringing salt and light to the tech sector?
As I bowed at my bedside, what I really wanted from God that day was for him to rubberstamp my ambitions to become an engineer. (I love how unimpressed God is with the so-called excellence we can offer him.) The plan seemed sensible enough, would help others, and would increase my personal influence, but what I really needed was his endorsement.
With my knees on the hardwood floor and my head leaning into the red comforter, the sensation that came over me was not at all what I expected. I felt the jealous fire of God burn from my heart, and his displeasure at the impersonal way I was approaching him. I felt the Holy Spirit rebuking me for leaning upon my own rational mind at this critical juncture of my life. After all, head not my senior quote in high school been Proverbs 3:5-6?
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
The Holy Spirit chastised me for trying to forge ahead without his leadership. I was floored. I repented desperately, telling the Father I was sorry that, up until that point, I had left him out of my plans.
I felt like a plastic bag being whipped around in the whirlwind. Desperate to find something to anchor to, I asked the Lord, “Okay, what do you want me to major in, then? What should my career be?”
At first, there was silence.
I asked him again, “God, what do you want me to do?”
Then came a gentle whisper from God that would shift the next five years of my life.
Children? My head was spinning. I paced from one end of my bedroom to another and back, trying to make heads or tails of what God was saying.
OK… All right… cool. I’ve always liked math. I feel pretty strong and comfortable in that. I can maybe teach high school math.
No… younger, the Lord later replied.
I was taken aback. I had never thought of myself as someone that was good with kids. I had never felt a special passion for them before, so what was God really up to?
I felt disoriented. Fortunately, the following summer, God was planning to speak to me through the unlikeliest of voices…