I found out a couple of nights ago the result of my application to study masters in social psychology, at the New School of Social Research in New York City. The letter said that “although we are not able to offer you admission at this time, we have placed your name on our waiting list”. Naturally, I was more than a little devastated. I had been eagerly awaiting the response from the university since I submitted my application two months ago; the waiting period not made any easier by the daily surge of questions from friends and acquaintances, “have you heard yet?”
I can’t help but laugh at the ironic timing of the letter’s arrival. I saw it as I was walking out the door for a dinner celebration for my mentor and sister-from-another-mister, Andi, with several of her friends gathering. Andi, visiting from her brownstone home in Brooklyn, is the pastor of recently planted Liberty Church. I stumbled through the door of her parents-in-law house in Dural, oblivious to the people already gathered and in conversation with Andi, and blurted out, “I have news, it’s not good.” Immediately Andi responded with faith that it is going to work out, there are options, backed up by her incredible sidekick Rhema, also visiting from NYC.
The rejection took me back to a thought I’d had when I visited New York in January. The school, the course, the city, the church, the social network; I remember thinking that everything was so perfect –just a little bit too perfect. Like a dangling carrot in front of me, I was fearful that if I reached for it, the carrot would be swiped away. My old motto, inspired by Homer Simpson, had been, “you try and you fail – the lesson is, never try.” This time I had determined not to let my fear of not reaching a dream to cripple me into inaction, and so I had submitted the application, full of faith and hope, overcoming so many battles of the mind.
Fast forward back to the past couple of days, and I felt like I had once more set myself up to be let down, that I had hoped where I had no right to hope, I had believed that things could work out, when my life experience had always taught me otherwise. The world has been a cruel place to me, filled with devilish whispers of doubt, hopelessness, self-hatred, and fear, that God couldn’t be trusted, that there was no future for me, that who was I to dream?
After a couple of days of breathing space and reflection, mixed with the prophetic encouragement of Andi and Rhema, and I am expectant for the future. I don’t know how it will work out, but I do know that it will. It’s not like my whole life was dependant on the affirmative answer from this one piece of paper, that as a result now my life is down the drain (yes, I am a drama queen in moments of crisis!). I know that things don’t always work out as I, in my human frailty, expect. But I also know that God is bigger than a letter of denial, and that it is not beyond reach to open doors that need to be opened, and to shut those that I am not supposed to walk through.
Maybe if I had gotten my place at the university, complete with a scholarship to fund my studies there, I would have been robbed of an even greater miracle, found not in the answer itself, but in the faith journey along the path. If I had had the satisfaction and security straight away, how would I learn to trust in the midst of an impossible situation made even more impossible?
When I first applied to Hillsong College, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to come, based on my history. But knowing that I was meant to go there, I told them once more why I should. I reassured them of my ability to successfully complete my certificate. I prayed. And, I got accepted into college. Now, as I look at this letter, I realise: this is something worth fighting for.
Yesterday I listened to a podcast from Paul, Andi’s husband and co-pastor of Liberty Church. He talked about how as he considered the magnitude of what moving to New York would mean, he realised the great financial burden of the move; relocating to one of the world’s most expensive cities, in the midst of a financial crisis, starting a church and a business. God spoke to him and said, “what would you give for a city?” Now, as I look upon the financial impossibility of moving to New York, the denial letter from the college, the lack of visa, I think of the same question, what would I give for a city? Would I risk dreaming, daring to hope that I can go there? Would I give my fears and uncertainties up and trust it will work out? What would I give for a city?