“Congratulations!” The seminary president shook my hand and passed me along to the faculty lineup. A few more handshakes and just like that, in my mid-50s, I had my PhD.
“What are you going to do with your degree?” friends asked. “Are you applying for a teaching job at a university?” (The PhD is a teaching and research degree, after all.)
“No. I don’t think so!” I got tired of being asked the same questions. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I’d heard the Voice urging me to go ahead when the program opened. I’d walked through the open door.
Now I was finished. And … now what? Our kids were grown. My husband had a satisfying job. There was nothing I had to do.
Occasionally, I clicked through job opportunities. Nothing seemed to fit. After five intensive months of writing and defending a dissertation, my brain wasn’t working well.
“Rest. You have a year off.” I heard God’s direction clearly. It wasn’t hard to obey: I could hardly move for the first six months.
I rested. Read almost nothing. Watched a few Korean dramas. Began slowly to reconnect with colleagues and friends.
One Monday morning, a year after I defended my dissertation, I had lunch with one of my best friends. She mentioned an opportunity. “There’s an opening in Indonesia. What do you think?”
Immediately my heart leaped. Yes, I would love to go. When we were kids, my husband and I had felt called to serve God cross-culturally. Biennial trips to teach overseas were great – but not the fulltime global work we’d anticipated doing together.
“Ask your husband. See what he thinks about the idea,” she said.
Having been married 35 years, I responded, “Um. Your husband is hanging out with my husband in a few days. Why doesn’t he ask Waldemar instead?”
That Thursday, our friend asked my husband. There was no hesitation on W’s part, though he loved his work and had recently declined several promotions and job offers.
The guys called me to join them at the dining table. “What do you think?” asked my husband, grinning from ear to ear. What?!
We turned to each other and said, “Yes. This feels right”
And that night, we turned to each other again. “Are you sure?” (Yes, I’m sure.)
“Are you sure?” (Yes, so am I!) We made no long prayers. We didn’t fast or ask mentors. The Shepherd was on the move and we were following.
We spent the next year fundraising on weekends while my husband finished his teaching contract at a university. The past two years, we’ve lived in Indonesia.
Who knew? The year after graduation, there seemed no reason for my degree. Now, when our Indonesian neighbors (who happen to be doctors, scientists, and politicians) introduce us to others, they say our names and, “they both have PhDs.” It’s their welcome and inclusion among educated peers.
Nothing about our life there is what we expected. We work hard, but the Bible studies are small – very small – among the unreached population we serve and pray for. We’re building friendships and studying the language. The church plant doesn’t yet meet weekly or have staff and volunteers. Everything seems much slower and more difficult than we were told.
But do we love it? Are we surprised by God’s goodness morning by morning? Do we fall asleep with grateful and desperate prayers night after night? Do we rely on the partners who pray with us and support us?
“What makes such a radical transition possible?” people ask. “We could never leave everything behind at your age. We’re planning a comfortable retirement.”
A big “yes” is possible – and easy – because of the 100 times we’ve said yes to Jesus in small things. We’ve learned to recognize God’s voice over the years, taking small risks and testing the waters with small decisions.
What small obedience is God calling you to? Do you recognize when the Shepherd calls your name and leads you out? Are you committed to follow him?
Rosemarie blogs at www.peacefulones.blogspot.com, among other places.