Testimony: Thursday, March 24, 2016

All right, this is my first time ever making a testimony, and I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out, but here goes…

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First of all, I’m not schizophrenic or anything, but I’m sure that many of you know that often a phrase or quotation that you’ve seen before will resurface in certain situations. Like having a convenient one-way dialogue with the great minds of the past.

Secondly, although it is cliche to talk about college applications and my personal growth during the process, I’ve been blessed enough to live a very placid and uneventful life, and have never been tested in truly difficult situations. Not that I consider these applications and decisions to be more important than world hunger, wars, cancer, or US presidential elections, of course; they are dwarfed in comparison. This is just what I have learned from my own experience in the past few days, months, and yes, even years.

Thirdly, as a Christian, I am not perfect, and am nowhere even close. I am inundated with greed, anger, laziness, and more dangerously, pride. I have taken many things for granted as well, including my education, my four siblings, my parents and grandma, clean air, the gift of music, my 5+ senses, clothing, food, shelter, and my four limbs.

Now, I am not doing this for the sole purpose of humble-bragging. I finished the first semester of senior year with a 4.16 grade point average, an ACT score of 34, and an 800 in both SAT Physics and SAT Math 2. I had spent hours and hours writing, rewriting, and polishing my essays, and it was easy to imagine myself secure in my immediate future with university. In fact, my counselor was certain I’d get accepted or at the least, deferred, to my ED school, Johns Hopkins University. It came as a shock to all when I was outright declined. Only my mom had the premonition that perhaps I was not the right fit for the school. 

“Faith in God includes faith in his timing.”

I came across this quote after receiving the disappointing news. I trusted that something better was on the horizon. Perhaps biomedical engineering was not my call after all. But I could only watch helplessly as peers and former peers prepared to go off to Cornell, UPenn, UChicago, Hopkins, and the like. Still, I felt confident enough that I would be able to get into at least one of the other eight schools on my list, although everyone I shared it with commented that it looked insanely difficult. At the time I joked, the law of probability is probably in my favor. Ironically enough, one line from R&G always hovered in my mind during those times.

“A weaker man might be moved to reexamine his faith, if for nothing at least in the law of probability.”

Well, I wasn’t. January came and went. This month I began receiving decisions. The first two letters served as a warm-up. Hooray, I was accepted into my safeties. I was pumped for more good news when I opened my next email last week.

“Courage, dear heart.”

I thought I had a very decent shot at Northwestern University, but was waitlisted instead. I took a big blow to the ego, and as if that were not enough, I received an outright rejection from UCLA within the next couple of days, though many thought that my stats were incongruent with the result. Another acceptance from my final safety hardly cheered me up. I had been far too optimistic at the outset, and suddenly I understood why pessimists do what they do. I had left my heart out in the open sky for scrutinization, and it had fallen, crashing through the brush. I saw no hand extended to catch it.

I was ready to resign myself to an ordinary life. Well, that’s a bit melodramatic, but in truth I learned to not expect much for the year after graduation anymore. I was even thinking how nice a gap year might turn out.

“Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow.”

Where was my hope? Last night at 4am I was drowning in fear. I was having a three-way conversation between my doubt, myself, and God:

Whether I dare to hope, or I dare to stop hoping, my heart aches.

 Have you not been through this before? In eighth grade you applied to boarding school and failed. You received denial after denial and finally you had to follow your family to China. It’s going to happen again. It’s happening now. Have you not learned your lesson the first time? Are you so hard-headed to change?

My fear now is not that I have a poor capacity for self-expression, it is that I never had any self to express. I am the utter opposite of unique, and that I cannot change. I am a mixture of cliches, recycled ideas, textbook knowledge, and tears for others. There is nothing new under the sun.

At that time Henley interrupted my thoughts and I remembered, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” Then, jeeringly, this was countered by my doubt. How can you be the master of your fate when nothing is in your control? Pooh-pooh, to your favorite couplet of all literature (that you’ve read, anyway).

To that, I finally heard God’s voice, which I had been ignoring amid the turmoil in my head: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

Oh God, I despaired, I am weak, I am inadequate. Help me!

Immediately there was an answer. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I was so relieved I could have cried. I had been trusting too much on my own achievements, forgetting that they were made only through the abilities given to me by God, in the same way a child uses his father’s own money to buy him a gift. I was so prideful of my God-given abilities that I had taken them for granted. No, I didn’t do any of this on my own, and I never could have. What understanding do I have that is not from God? Let go, let God. “Just trust me…” I finally felt peace and found rest that night.

The next day (today) I received my offer from Wellesley College with complete humility. It would have meant nothing without me going through this painful process, but I wouldn’t have had it otherwise. I am slowly dying to self. Not going to boarding school, in retrospect, turned out for the best, and for that I am infinitely thankful. I wouldn’t have been ready to leave the nest yet, it was too early in my own development. Family, I realized, was too important for me to leave them four years earlier than necessary. Not getting into Hopkins taught me not to take certain things for granted and never to assume, and also to trust that there are better things ahead…and kept me working hard during the rest of the semester and into the next. Again, now I wouldn’t have had it any other way. And finally, today, while doing some laps in the pool, the longer I swam, the more certain I became that I needed to share my experience, intimidating and baring as it would be to me.

Even if I had been waitlisted, even if I had been rejected at that point, I would have known that God is for me.

I am still awaiting the remainder of my decisions, but I have a new attitude of striving to wholly trust God. I may have doubt, but His yoke is easy and His burden light, and I will wait and hope on Him. These familiar phrases have taken on new meaning to me through this experience.

“Only God can turn

a MESS into a MESSage,

a TEST into a TESTimony,

a TRIal into a TRIumph,

a VICTim into a VICTory.

GOD is GOOD, all the time!”

Happy Easter! He is risen!

First published on FB on March 24, 2016.

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