Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Looking Back On The Road To Here

    Reflecting on the thoughts of my last post of the closing of the second decade of my life, I thought I'd take time to look back on the time gone by, and take time to look ahead. Jamie was mentioning yesterday that one of her professors had made a statement about how we apparently perceive time as we grow older - that events and days only seem to accelerate. Even so, it's hard to believe 10 years have gone by so fast. With whatever time of life I have left, I wonder if the coming decade will seem to pass even faster than the last.

    It seemed not too long ago that I was in my first year of my undergraduate degree, floundering in life on all fronts - academically, mentally, physically, socially, emotionally, spiritually. After working to my utmost in my final years of high school to get admission into a good undergraduate university in engineering, it seemed that life was falling into place as I started out at one of the top 10 universities in the US. But within months, life began to unravel and fall apart at a pace that I seemed helpless to stop. My sense of discipline and purpose seemed to evaporate, and my health collapsed. It culminated in a spectacular loss as all the whatever I had seemed to achieve in academic progress crumbled to dust, leaving me hanging by the proverbial thread and with little hope for the future. I found myself lost and in crisis on almost every personal front - mentally, emotionally, spiritually, identity, suddenly unsure of what I wanted to do in life and what to do to put things together.

    But as it so often happens in moments of personal devastation, God was architecting events even as I roamed aimlessly in the midst of the rubble that my life had become. The next five years of the decade I have just left behind would become pivotal, as God orchestrated powerfully transforming and paradigm shifting change in my life, on a journey that spanned seven cities in three countries on two continents. It would be an understatement to say that I became a different person; emerging from an undergraduate degree in engineering in India, I still remember the comment of a relative who remarked that it seemed that both I and my life had been turned 180 degrees from what they used to be.

    The last five years have been a similarly wonderful journey, though in a different sense. Hopping back to the North American Continent and traversing two cities in the pursuit of a Master's degree in Engineering, it became a period marked by intellectual struggle for both faith and truth. I did not expect graduate school to grind me that way, but it was a good thing. Wading through the ideologies that struggle for dominance of the minds that attend a typical secular North American university campus was hard. It was often that I found myself struggling to explain either to myself or someone else, why the Christ and my Christian faith that I had taken to heart so easily since childhood was intellectually viable and defensible. Deism, Theism, Pantheism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Mysticism, Humanism, Politicism, Secularism....I have lost count of the conversations I've had on campus during my time at SFU with proponents of one (and sometimes more) of those worldviews. Some conversations have been wonderful and cheerful, others bland and superficial and yet others hostile and depressing. I found myself in turmoil as I tried to find a basis for thought amidst what seemed like intellectual quicksand - fearful, angry and confused as I came away from conversations that seemed on the verge of destroying both my faith and assumptions; happy at those that brought me reassurance and comfort; frustrated at those that seemed to be stuck at a mental impasse; inadequate after being unable to answer a question or challenge coherently or satisfactorily; restless after those that seemed to insert nagging doubts into my head about life and faith, and many more. Sometimes, I still come away feeling unnerved, but it only drives my determination to find truth and certainty.

    But even during my time in graduate school, I see how God has been orchestrating events with a purpose of slow, deliberate growth and maturity through a steady and ceaseless intellectual hammering. Questions of life, faith, truth, love, doctrine, theology, worldview, family, relationship, money, politics, autonomy, origin, meaning, morality, destiny - wading through the quagmire of questions that surround these was (and still is) very, very hard. I don't for a moment dare to claim that I have perfect, infallible understanding or answers to these questions that have plagued humanity during all our time here. But I do claim that I have met and am increasingly coming to know the Christ who does. 

    I need no convincing that the words of the hymn that came out of James Russell Lowell's original poem "Once To Every Man And Nation", might possibly be true: 

"Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
 Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
 Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
 Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own."

    Whatever happens from here on out, may I not forget this fact - God is there, in the shadows, purposefully watching and waiting. He has not, does not and will never leave my life to chance. I pray that you come to this realization too. See you in the next post as I think about the road ahead.

- The Wisdom Seeker