Posted tagged ‘comps’

Guest Blog: “Coping with Comps: An Ordeal of Faith”

February 1, 2010

Part 2 of 2
(Read Part 1 here)

by Gregory Jones, Kent State University

The peace that God granted me that day lasted for quite a while.  Being human, however, I eventually began to doubt God’s voice yet again.  I thought maybe God will allow me to fail once, but then pass on the second attempt.  I, like Thomas, doubted the voice of God, desiring to feel with tactile certainty that I would pass.  My wife (a near saint in her own right) continued to assure me that she had a, “peace,” about it.  The only thing more powerful than women’s intuition is God-breathed women’s intuition.  I did not even trust her.  I continued to doubt.

This was an ordeal of faith, to me, wrestling with comps.  No matter how much I read or studied, I still feared the questions the examining professors might ask.  I became obsessive with my desire to “fill gaps” in my knowledge base.  I became convinced that I, a man, could do enough, work hard enough, and prevail on an individual basis.  This is a faulty, worldly perspective.  This process was never about me, yet I made it about me.

I eventually took and passed the written portion of my exam.  I failed one section on it, ironically my specialized area, the American Civil War.  This is what I began to call “divine irony.”  I do not believe, at least since Jesus’ brief visit to the Earth, that God takes revenge on our doubting.  However, I do believe that this was a moment where God laughed at me, yet like a good Father also comforted me in my trial and frustration.  Some combination of teaching me humility and trust in Him, ultimately this failure made me stronger.

After studying for a week, I walked in to my oral comprehensive exam relatively confident.  I had been assured by another good sermon that God would continue to be in control of my life and that I needed to make sure to thank Him for His work and blessings.  I did these things.  I was, as far as I could Earthly prepare, ready for my exam.  The first question was not difficult, yet it stunned me.  After about an hour of feeling completely confused and ill prepared, I (again) doubted God’s will and slumped my shoulders.  I assumed my performance was so terrible that I lost most semblance of decorum and began answering with nonchalance.  I gave up.  It was as if my giving up allowed God to fill the void.  When it was no longer about myself, I believe God took care of me.

Now skeptics will say that this was no ordeal of faith at all, but merely a man’s struggle with the nerves of comprehensive exams.  I disagree.  The days that I experienced peace and contentment were the days that I relied upon God’s plan for my life. The days that I experienced immense horror and fear of the unknown were the days that I “leaned on my own understanding.”  This blog is not meant to be a sermon that necessarily makes you live your life exponentially differently.  However, if you do not know your Calling, seek it.  If you do know your Calling, rest assured that God has His best planned for you.  Concentrate on the days of peace and blessing, not the days of doubt.

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Guest Blog: “Coping with Comps: An Ordeal of Faith”

December 7, 2009

Part One of Two

by Gregory Jones, Kent State University

First let me say God is gracious.  Sometimes we over use the word “grace,” one of the most beautiful words in the English language.  However, having successfully passed doctoral candidacy exams this week, I can honestly say I feel God’s grace.  The point of this blog is to explore the comprehensive exam process as it relates to faith.  After all, perseverance is a Biblical mandate.

When the comps process began I was honestly very optimistic about the entire ordeal.  I thought it would be a time to become an expert, and then display that expertise in front of the professionals that I have grown to respect.  That perspective functioned well for several months of studying, meeting, and waxing eloquent about the classic works of history.  Then, unexpectedly, I experienced the doom and fear of failure.

The funny thing about “Calling,” is that it allows us to be certain that God’s plan will prevail in our lives.  For some, Calling is a radical career shift after twenty years of experience, for others it is a surety from grade school or high school.  I knew I wanted to be a professional historian sometime in high school, but it was solidified during my experiences at Geneva College.  After a few trips to hear colloquia and several good discussions with professors, I realized that God’s will for my life was to teach (my pure passion) and write about the past.

Despite that Calling, that certainty of God’s plan for my life and career, the fear of failure began to encompass me.  I had confident meetings with my examining professors, yet I still felt inadequate.  I could not get myself out of the way and let God do His work.  I pushed on in my studying, focusing almost entirely on the books, facts, and interpretations I could not remember instead of the wealth of information God helped me store in my brain.  Call it pessimism or broken human nature, but despite the Calling I felt, I still doubted my God.

Throughout this process, I experienced a refreshing and revitalizing new church.  In this new church I met people who were “Jesus” to me.  This may seem a bit out of place in a reflection of comps, but it is not.  From random hugs, handshakes, and conversations about sports, the weather, and missions, I experienced community in a real and meaningful way.  Also, God spoke through our pastor one Sunday.  God reached out and explained to me that there was no reason for me to doubt Him.  He had been faithful in getting me into two graduate programs, getting me through my Master’s degree, and finally through doctoral course work.  Why did I doubt Him now?

When God speaks to you (at least in my experience), it has never been a feeling of ominous presence or the fear the Old Testament prophets explained.  It was an overwhelming feeling of peace.  As I departed the service I told my pastor it was the best sermon I have heard at that church.  Looking startled (and humble), he simply said, “maybe it was just the sermon you needed to hear.”  He was right again.  I needed to hear that God’s Calling was there, but I needed to trust Him with it.  That Sunday, about a month from my comprehensive exam, I surrendered my exams to Jesus.  I told Him that I had given him my career, my marriage, my home, and my future so He could have my exams as well.