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 (Manna 72: Love—the Bond of Perfection)
Treasured Moments with God: How God Walked with Me Through Graduate School
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Lois Kuo—Pacifica, California, USA

FROM THE START

It was my first day in a new city. I had been caught up in a frenzy of packing after a summer crammed with church events. It was not until I was sitting alone on an unfamiliar bed in my unfamiliar room that I was suddenly struck by the immensity of being so far from everyone and everything I knew. “What have I gotten myself into?” The thought literally immobilized me. I didn’t know what to do or where to go.

At that moment, my cell phone rang. It was a local church sister, telling me that another sister was visiting from abroad. She would be taking her to see the sights of the city and invited me to go along. I was flooded with relief and gratitude to God. He had known how I would feel and had prepared this invitation to help me break out of my paralysis. This is how God helped me from the first day of my graduate school journey.

While getting to know the surroundings and local church members, in the newness of it all, I forgot my fear. But on the first day of class, the feeling of intense dread returned. “Why did I do this? Why did I come here? I know nothing about journalism!” I had a knot in my stomach and I felt nauseous. I opened my Bible to read a passage, knowing I would have to dash off to class immediately after. I happened to be reading Daniel chapter 1. When I read verse 17, it stopped me in my tracks:

“As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom.”

I felt God’s comfort through the verse. Daniel was not only in a foreign place, but in a foreign country. How insecure he must have felt living in a foreign king’s palace! If God could give Daniel wisdom in literature, He could also give me knowledge of journalism. Suddenly, my heart was calm. I knew that I was here to study for God, so what did I have to fear?

GOD WAS MY FRIEND

Although God reassured me as I started out, it did not mean that it would be an easy ride. I waited for God to place the knowledge of journalism directly into my head, but it never happened. I still had to learn the hard way. I struggled to catch up with my classmates who were either journalism undergraduate majors or had worked in the field. I had thought that my undergraduate degree in English was closely related, but it turned out that the rules of journalism were different in many ways.

In class, I was constantly lost, not understanding the terms used. The most I could do was to pretend I knew what everyone was talking about. I cringed when my articles returned all marked up in red, and I struggled with accepting the critical edits of my professors and classmates. It was disheartening because I felt so inadequate that it seemed impossible to catch up with others.

At the same time, I struggled with finding a part-time job. Every month, I worried that I would not be able to pay the rent. I scrimped on everything I could, but things were still very tight. I prayed for God’s help but became resentful that He did not help me find a way to provide for my basic necessities. When I was considering to attend graduate school, I had thought of working for a few years first to earn money. In the end, I directly went on to pursue my studies, because it was clear that God was leading me down this path.

My complaints echoed those of the Israelites in the wilderness. I could not understand why He asked me to leave my familiar surroundings and took me to a place without bread and water. Just as the Israelites had seen God’s miracles in Egypt, I had clear signs from Him that graduate school was the right choice. But now that I was here, where was God? I felt as if He had left me to fend for myself.

I was tired of the rejections and roadblocks when hunting down stories and interviews, a part of journalism that I had been unprepared for. Especially since I was new to the city, I did not have connections or referrals. My classmates were not friendly or helpful. I often felt that I was at the mercy of strangers and that the strangers around me were not that merciful. This profession required one to have a very tough skin, and I didn’t have it.

This feeling gradually built up. One day, I was supposed to interview a police officer. But I did not feel like leaving the house. I was in the midst of a writing-intensive semester, with an average of four articles due each week. I was weary from the constant stress of article deadlines. I knelt down to pray and decided that I would not get up until I felt peaceful. In the back of my mind, I thought: “if it takes all day, then, oh well, I don’t feel up to doing the interview anyway.”

As I knelt, I poured out my heart to God. In the midst of this, I felt God speak to me through a thought that came very clearly to me: “The police officer will be your friend.” I was surprised. How could this stranger possibly be my friend? As I pondered what that meant, I realized that although I did not have connections to people in the area, God was my connection. The people I thought I had chanced upon were placed there by God’s arrangement. I recalled the time I had walked into an independent art gallery and felt very timid as the elderly owner snapped impatiently at me. I was just about to give up and leave when one of his volunteers appeared. He treated me with extreme kindness, willingly looking up the history and pricing of various art pieces so I could have enough information to write an article. He said he volunteered only certain hours on certain days. But it was not until that moment in prayer that I understood that the timing was not a coincidence. I also recalled how I had first met this police officer I was to interview. Without getting his contact information when I was working at the polls as a translator, I would have had to make cold calls to police stations and would have received more rejections. Therefore, if God said that this person would be my friend, then I believed Him. Strengthened, I got up and left the house for the interview.

God was indeed faithful. The police officer was not only an easy person to interview but also gave me a police officer pin and a tour of the police department, introducing me to his chief and colleagues. Afterward, he drove me to the supermarket and introduced me to his wife so that I could interview her as well. Through his introductions, I could get the three voices required for an article although I had not specifically requested them. While speaking with his wife, he bought me a bagel. And afterward, since it was raining, he and his wife drove me home instead of dropping me off at the subway. I felt that his kindness was completely uncharacteristic of the people I had met, and I could explain it in no other way than the mercy of God.

LOOKING BACK

When I think back on my graduate school experience, this verse reverberates in my mind:

Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD:
“I remember you,
The kindness of your youth,
The love of your betrothal,
When you went after Me in the wilderness,
In a land not sown.”

(Jer 2:2)

I came across this verse while reading the Bible at home one day. It brought me to tears because God wanted me to know that though I felt that He was so far away, He did remember me. Though I was struggling in those years of graduate studies, my previous servitude and passion for Him had not been in vain, for He remembered them, and treasured them. During a spiritual convocation a few days afterward, during one prayer, I felt God tenderly saying repeatedly, “I remember you,” and I felt His presence all around me. My heart was full. I was touched by the fact that God wanted to comfort me, and knew it was true that He never forgot me.

God resolved my financial stress when my academic advisor asked me to be a teaching assistant for one of his undergraduate classes and when a church family asked me to babysit. I enjoyed both jobs immensely and learned a lot from them. As I adjusted to the specific demands of journalism school, I was able to appreciate and make the most of that special time in my life as a graduate student. Although answers did not come immediately, I see God’s thoughtfulness in the way He provided for me in the end. So in times when we feel weak, let us hold fast to the belief that though the way we walk is not smooth, it is paved with the love of God, which remains steadfast at all times.

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Author: Lois Kuo
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