Not really a PhD update, but kind of…

Hitting the wall – it’s how distance runners talk about that part of the race where you feel you just can’t run any further. When the body is screaming, and every fibre of your being wants to give up. At least so I believe, but I’ve never run far enough to feel like that.
However on many levels life right now feels something like that. In terms of energy levels, in terms of sleep deprivation, in terms of work for PhD and in relation to figuring out what next. We’re coming to the end of the three year chunk of time we’ve devoted to getting PhD done, and on almost every level of life it feels like these last few months are just such hard work. With two out of three children not sleeping solidly through the night, each night is interrupted in one way or another, and when that is combined with number 2 having his tonsils out this week tiredness rockets. Job applications have been made, and we wait to hear. We try to live now, but the next steps take the energy.

So my plans to do a PhD update have never quite reached fruition. Every time I think about it, I think I could actually do some PhD work instead. Right now however my brain is not up to any actual work, but I need to process my thoughts somehow in this crazy time – so this is a kind of processing related to the process of a PhD.
The PhD is “nearly” there. All the blocks are waiting for the final assembly process, and some of the blocks need some reassembling. I’ve got an overall summary done, I know what the conclusions are I’m working towards. It does all make sense – but all the pieces need their final crafting, and some things need to be cut out. When my head is panicking it feels like I’m playing a game of Tetris with the pieces, at the point when the speed is advancing and the screen filling up fast – and that the pieces are starting to be those rather long awkward shaped ones and I don’t have the space to rotate them properly.
It seems to sum up the rest of life really. Just as we think we’ve got a space, a time to regroup, something altogether new and different falls from the sky, and we’re wondering how on earth this new piece is going to fit. In the midst of all this I’ve been reading Proverbs recently and as I reach chapter 9 I’ve been really struck by the call to search diligently for wisdom and insight. I’m also really struck by the way in which this wisdom and insight begin with the fear of the LORD, and the knowledge of the Holy One (9:10).

It is summed up in the familiar words of chapter 3:15 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart (intellect and emotions together in the Bible), and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” I do not have all the information I need to make sense of what God is doing and how he is doing it right now.

I’m in a similar place to our 3 year old. We took him to hospital yesterday morning – he was fine. Mysteriously he was then taken to a room, fell asleep with a mask on his face, woke up in a strange room and then woke up again in a bed. Now his throat feels like agony, and he’s distinctly groggy and whoozy. What has happened? We know he’s had his tonsils out and will feel better in a few days/a week or so, and that he won’t get tonsillitis again every month for the coming year. But he doesn’t know that right now. Right now it’s just a bit confusing and it hurts.

So with us. And so often in life this is how it is with God. We don’t have the information. We just have to trust – and keep moving forward. Right now it is really, really hard to do that. I was encouraged, and almost brought to tears singing these words recently in church:

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You’re the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
You’re working for our good
You’re working for our good and for Your glory (Aaron Keyes)

Vital words – and having been buried in Exodus 32-34 for a while reminding me of the vital realities, that above all else God is compassionate and kind. He is good. Most wonderful of all his glory is his goodness. He displays his glory to Moses by showing him his utter goodness. He displays his glory most fully to us by his body stretched out on a cross for us.

For now what we need is the wisdom to trust, and the strength to put our feet forward for another day. That is what we need this night, and that is what we need in the new day. Wisdom and strength that come from the God who holds us and loves us, even as he carries out his surgery on our lives.


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