When I was a junior in high school, I tried to organize an evangelistic music concert at my school with my campus Christian club. I thought it would be a great way to engage my classmates, and on top of that it would be pretty cool/fun. Everything was going well except that the advisor who would sign off on all the necessary paperwork wasn’t as sure that this endeavor was going to be a good idea. She told me, “I’ll pray about it,” and one month before the concert was supposed to occur, she put her foot down and told me to cancel the project.

‘Great,’ I mumbled behind the advisor’s back. ‘Why couldn’t you tell me that before I put in months of work?’

Senior year rolled around, and my church was planning its annual mission trip to Mexico. A friend and I were asked to oversee part of the team, helping to plan and coordinate the daily activities that we would be doing with the kids. With only a week until the trip, it became apparent that Mexican drug cartel activity would pose a significant danger to the team should we choose to go down. So, with tears in his eyes, our Mexico mission coordinator announced to us that, for the safety of the youth, he was cancelling the trip for that year.

‘Great,’ I grumbled to myself. ‘Why couldn’t you tell me that before I put in months of work?”

The summer after my freshman year in college I helped out with a summer ministry at my church. The leaders asked me to oversee a portion of the ministry and report back to them. So I made a spreadsheet, got all the information, and sent over an email explaining everything that was going on. The following week, the leaders did the exact same thing.

“Didn’t you get my email?” I asked. “I did this exact thing last week and emailed you the results.”

“Oh. To be honest we got your email but we didn’t read it.”

‘Great,’ I thought in exasperation. ‘Why couldn’t you tell me that before I bothered to put in work?’

The summer before my last semester in college I began to apply for graduate school. My GPA was less than perfect, I was missing prerequisite classes, I had no one I could ask to write me letters of recommendation, and I had no idea what I could do with my degree once I graduated except go to graduate school. From my perspective, everything else I could do with my degree I could have done straight out of high school.

“Great,” I cursed God. “Why couldn’t You just close all these doors before I put in years of work?”

That year I met with people and we talked. We talked about the Bible; we talked about the gospel; we talked about what I believed. And at the end of it all, the conclusion was,

“Monica, I don’t know if you’re a Christian.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

‘Great,’ I raged at God. “Why couldn’t you have shown me this problem before I started planning my life around it?!”

What did it mean to be a Christian? What did it mean to believe? What did it look like to trust God? To pray? To die to myself? And if life without Christ is meaningless, what was the point of existing? Would God not be more glorified in the immediate execution of justice for my sin than for me to continue living life in rebellion against Him? Plus, that would answer my only lingering question: Am I even a Christian? The answer could only be, “Yes, you fool,” or “Away from me, I never knew you.” It would be immediate gratification of that answer at least.

My last semester I had an internship at an adapted pool facility. One of my clients was one of the most infuriating people you could ever meet: a woman with a traumatic brain injury and a devout Christian. I worked with her every week for four months, and every week she would tell me the same thing:

“I was smart and beautiful, Monica, but I was running away from God. I was smart and beautiful, but God had to get my attention. I lost everything, see? But I have Jesus, Monica. God is good! Don’t run away from God, Monica. Don’t be like me.”

She told me this every week for four months. And every week for four months I would help her stretch, help her walk, help her bathe, and help her go to the bathroom. And I would wonder if this was my warning. That this was what was coming for me in my stubborn unbelief. Was God going to take my health next?

‘Great,’ I grumbled to God. “The next time I get on the freeway I’m going crash and become a quadriplegic or something…”

Well, that car accident never happened, and after graduation I moved home. I was waitlisted for graduate school, and I didn’t have a plan B. Work on my pre-requisites and re-apply the following year maybe? But what was the point? If I was not saved, and my life was not being used to the glory of God, everything I did was worthless. I couldn’t serve in the church, I had no spiritual gifts, and now I was supposed to be proud of having a B.S. degree? B.S. indeed.

‘Great,’ I screamed at God. “Why did you even bother creating me if I’m not going to be saved?!”

Was my entire existence, then, just a giant faith exercise for those sisters at church to pray about? To stretch their faith and their trust in God while I sit outside looking in thinking, ‘Well, good for you! I’m just going to hell anyway. Have a nice day.’ Sure, that’ll bring glory to God, but d00d, why bother raising me in a church? Isn’t that the “extra special” form of rejection in the bible where someone hears the gospel, acknowledges that it’s true, and then explicitly denies it?

Two months later I was accepted into two graduate programs off of the waitlist. I accepted the offer to attend grad school at Northridge State, and immediately second guessed everything.

“Great,” I complained to a friend. “Now that I’m accepted, I’m definitely going to get kicked out.”

“Wait, what? No you’re not!”

“No, because this is how it works: I wanted to get into grad school. Now that I’m in grad school, God is going to take it away because He has some other plan that doesn’t involve grad school and I was supposed to say ‘no’ and not have accepted a spot in this program.”

“Nooo, don’t think that way! I’m glad you got in!”

“Whatever.”

‘Great…’ I grumbled against God. ‘Was I not supposed to say ‘yes’ to grad school?’

As it turns out, you can’t wrestle with God and graduate school at the same time. Four months into the program I hated my life. By finals week I was supplementing my study material with articles like, “100 reasons to drop out of graduate school.” One gem of an article I found was about how, for women, the cost of a doctoral degree is literally the cost of their firstborn child. Encouraging stuff. Every time I went to church or fellowship I was confronted with the fact that my soul was on the line, and every time I went to class I was confronted with the fact that it was study or die, and dying was beginning to sound like a really good option. The only reason I wanted this degree originally was because I wanted to use it for medical mission trips. But if I was not a Christian, there is no such thing as a “medical mission.” There is no urgency to share the gospel with others when your own soul is not secure.

‘God,’ I prayed, ‘If it will help me love You I will drop out of this program.’

I never worked up the nerve to actually drop out, but by the end of the second semester, I had failed out of the program.

And I cried.

I cried because, no matter how you pitch it, it just sucks. And I cried because I am loved. So many people have prayed for me as I wrestled with my salvation and my schooling. They have walked with me, argued with me, and pleaded with me. My family has reassured me that I am still loved and supported, and my friends have assured me that I am always welcome as a State employee (ahah…).

In my life, God has shown me that He is far more patient than I understand, and more good than I give Him credit for. For what has He taken that He did not first give to me?

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
-2 Cor. 12:9-10

My circumstances are not, in my own estimation, great. I most certainly am not great, and I cannot yet say that I am truly content. I started this post chronologically very far back in time because I think it shows just how much God has chipped away at my bitter and angry heart to basically reveal just how much of a failure I am. I am a person that puts a lot of faith in what she can do, and, as you can see, I can’t do all that much. I can’t say I understand why these things happened the way they did. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do now that I’m no longer in grad school. But what I do know, and what I have experienced in my life, is that God is great. Regardless of my circumstances, regardless of my failures, He does not change, and He hasn’t left me yet.

So let me be a failure, for in Christ alone is my victory.

O great God of highest heaven
Occupy my lowly heart
Own it all and reign supreme
Conquer every rebel power
Let no vice or sin remain
That resists Your holy war
You have loved and purchased me
Make me Yours forevermore
-O Great God | Sovereign Grace

Tl;dr: So I failed out of grad school and it kind of sucks but hey it’s OK feel free to talk about it with me, I’m generally not too emotional about it the end.

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