A morning after graduation day. This is one of the mornings I wanted to sleep in, yet one of those days that won't happen, I was up way too early. The wind was howling loudly outside and it was as if you can even feel the strong wind hitting you through the wall, but it was not the wind that awoken me, I guess it was my mind in reflection mood. And this song, "To God be the Glory," keeps ringing in my mind...so, finally I decided to sit up and put the mind in reflection into words, humming the song in mind.
To many it is just a ceremony, a graduation ceremony, last day of school (I graduated with Master of Theological Studies yesterday from McCormick Theological Seminary). Yes, it is so to me too. Yet, it is also more than that. It is a two years' or three years' HARD work. No, not two years—for some 21years, 35, or for some 29 years that brings this day, that brings this achievement. God has been knitting together all the twists and turns in my life even before I was born, with His LOVE and FAITHFULNESS, to this day, and to my future. [For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb- Ps 139:13]. To God be the Glory.
Neither of my parents has graduated formally from a Grad school. In fact, neither of them has ever finished high school formally. But, I think they are one of the most educated persons. My success today is not my success, but my parents' success. They nurtured me with all nutrients (spiritual, intellectual, physical, mental, emotional...) I need, they have trust in me, they have given me freedom to pursue my dream, my call. Mom, Dad, you allowed me to step out into the world unknown to you, to us, to explore and experience God's faithfulness. You are very courageous parents, especially not knowing what a woman can do by pursuing this line (I remember my Dad once told me that even if I want to do ministry, it may have to be decided by my husband once I get married). I am very proud of you, Mom and Dad. I am so thankful to my family and loved ones who allow me to pursue this calling; they are gifts from God. To God be the Glory.
Truly, there are details that my parents or family from home cannot imagine about the world I am in now—how people think here, how people talk or relate to each other, what or how or why people eat, or even how people worship and pray. Looking back these past two years, I can only say, yes, it is indeed a very different world. How rich the experience, how deep the blessings. Challenges do not come only from what we would call cultural differences; they sometimes come through the classrooms, text books, outside classrooms in the social ‘systems’, or even in the mind, in the heart, everywhere. In two years, there were times I long so much to speak to someone in person in my own language. There were times I long so much to see someone, not just from India, but someone from my region (Not only that there are no northeast Indian or Zomi students in my seminary or schools around Hyde Park, in two years I did not get a single chance to meet with and talk in person in my mother tongue or Manipuri. Only then I realize the effect ). There were times I feel I am all alone here. But today I can say what a privilege and blessing that God has allowed me to have experienced them.
Especially my second year has been a tough one. In a single semester I had four courses (including a very demanding class at the University of Chicago and one other Advanced course), two Teaching Assistant works, part time job at the Admissions Dept, and, applications for Ph.D. studies. I don't know how I did it. I can only say God's grace is bountiful. Not just academic stretch, the year also has challenges for me in the life outside. What a blessing that I have so many to do when someone might be crying deeply wishing to be able to study or work or experience life in a different world from where they are now. But also I have felt extreme loneliness, feeling of being alone, feeling of being abandoned, as if losing friend/s, dark and long nights with tears, wonderings if I could make it through. Yet, as Dr. Yamada, new president of my seminary, preached, God's way is "through" the waters, not above, nor around. So, I shall not avoid the mighty waters, I shall not avoid the waters but go “through” the waters, for He will lead me through; and even when His footprints are unseen, those times are rather when He is leading me through (Ps. 77:19). Yes, He is. To God be the Glory.
If not for families and friends I am blessed with here at seminary and at church, it could have been a horrible world, not just 'unknown'. Academic advisers, supervisors, professors, staffs, co-workers, classmates, seminary-mates, pastors, church co-servers, church mates, all have become my friends, some secretly (I say secretly because I may never proclaim so to them, but they really mean friends to me). Friends and "secret" friends I have developed up until this year, in India, in Japan, here, are signs of God continued LOVE and FAITHFULNESS in my life. I am deeply thankful to God for every single person involved in my life. To God be the Glory.
It really has been a two years of multi-experience theologically, culturally, socially, academically, relationally, and also spiritually. As Dr. Campbell, retired president of my seminary, preached on my Commencement, as I look to the future I shall pay attention to the vision God is giving me, even if I don't get it “clearly” the first time, I shall never give up (Mark 8:22-26).
To God be the Glory.
[From the personal diary of Chingboi Guite
May 15, 2011 / Chicago]