When I finished my BA, this time last year, I hadn't the slightest idea what to do next. My profound joy at bidding farewell to the hated Greek participles of my degree would seem to rule out further study; finding a job seemed less than likely, given the recession and my utter lack of useful skills. (An encyclopedic knowledge of schlock cinema, contemporary US sitcoms, and up-to-the-minute politically correct terminology does not, it seems, constitute a valuable skillbase in today's job market.)
And so I sought ways to avoid even thinking about it. I traveled Europe with the then girlfriend (good for 2 months of the rest of my life). I traded on the subsequent distance-enforced breakup for as long as possible (another 6 weeks or so). I earned a little bit from a one-off editing job (2 weeks). I slept on my brother's couch whilst undertaking an assortment of unpaid work experience (kept me going till Christmas). Finally, though, I was out of money and out of ideas, and I had to submit to the post-college experience most dreaded by graduates and their parents. It was time to move back home.
Forced, however unwillingly, to contemplate The Rest Of My Life, I committed to some soul- and Internet-searching. Much to my surprise, I found two ambitions had taken root in my heart and grown there intertwined. The first was to move to California; the second, to study theology in an academic setting. The two joined together when I found one particular, very exciting course, to which I underwent the arduous process of applying: taking the GRE, writing an academic statement, filling out the online forms, emailing the university, convincing three erstwhile lecturers to write me references, and having my transcripts couriered, at vast expense, across eight time zones.
And then – I waited.
My parents were dubious. Might I not want to apply to some other courses, just in case? Ought I not to have a plan B? Shouldn't I at least look for a job of some kind?
I didn't dismiss these gentle suggestions out of hand. I looked at other courses at a variety of institutions, both British and American, but found nothing that seemed worth the Herculean effort of applying. Nothing else set my heart pounding like this one course. I searched for jobs in the realm of publishing, which seemed the only field even vaguely appealing to me, but there was nothing for someone in my position. I pounded pavements until I found a minimum-wage customer-service job to tide me over.
And, at last, I got accepted into the program; and, after a couple of nerve-racking weeks, I got my funding.
My mother tells me she feels humbled by my faith, by the way I ignored her (perfectly reasonable) counsel to have a back-up plan and clung to the belief that this was the thing I was meant to do. But I don't feel at all that I was being especially faithful. Certainly, as I worked on my application, I felt a powerful sense of rightness; but, looking back over the past year, my overwhelming emotion was fear. I believed then, as I believe now, that God planted that initial longing for California in my heart two years ago as an arrow pointing in this direction, and that in fact all the strands of my life woven together form a giant flashing neon sign pointing in this direction, but I was still beset with debilitating doubts and fears.
Please don't count me among the great faithful, because I really, really am not. I've been so afraid – so consumingly, devastatingly afraid – and the best I can say is that God used that fear to make me depend less and less on myself and more and more on God. God works through the least of us, and the least faithful of us: God worked through Jonah, and God worked through Peter, and God is working through me, and God is working through you.