After finishing a master's degree in Victoria, I had gained a position at Avondale College in New South Wales. Shortly afterwards I met a young lady, Sarah, and two years later we were married. It was then that God started to prod me.
I felt Him urging me on to further studies in the form of a PhD degree. I can't exactly say what form the prodding took--my encounters with God have never been audible--but I felt deeply impressed: "Now is the time. Don't become complacent. Keep moving forward. I need you to keep going."
Life was quite comfortable at the time and the thought of further study was a little unsettling. But the feeling wouldn't leave me. At last I spoke with the college administration only to learn that there was a lengthy list of staff members waiting to commence further studies. Given that I was a relatively new arrival, I was not high on the list. They were supportive of my ambition, but if I were to proceed I would have to do so without financial support.
The prodding would not stop. "If you don't act now, you will be wasting My time," I sensed Him saying.
As the year progressed, I was forced to make a decision: continue to enjoy my life in its present state or give up an income and commit to a minimum of three years of intense study. I knew the sensible thing to do. I wasn't even sure why I needed a PhD degree. But God knew, and He wouldn't let up.
Defying logic, I eventually gave in and notified the college that I would be commencing studies in the new year. My wife was graduating from a teaching degree at the end of the year and we pinned our hopes on her receiving a call to employment. Things began to get desperate when we learned that because we were restricted to the Newcastle area, due to my study program at the university, there were no appointments for her. Committing to the study program was turning out to be more and more disruptive, and I began to wonder if I had done the wrong thing. One day as the year drew to a close--and the time to embark
upon our new-found poverty loomed--I was sitting on the couch at home lamenting the decision I had made. I was listening to a song by Steven Curtis Chapman, and the lyrics hit me hard: "Some things can only be known,/ and sometimes our faith can only grow,/ when we can't see./ So sometimes he/ comes in the clouds."
The words filled me with a sense of peace. They didn't offer any solutions to my predicament, but my anxieties were laid to rest.
A few more weeks passed and the peace prevailed. We went to spend Christmas with my wife's family, and when we arrived home a week later there was a letter in the mailbox. Thinking it to be another bill, I reluctantly opened it, but as I read the first line my heart skipped a beat. I had obtained an Australian Postgraduate Award, which would fund my study program for the next three years.
As it turned out, the study program was a joy, filled with many God-inspired moments. Further, it led to many opportunities that would not have been mine had I not taken that first leap of faith-- albeit reluctantly.
Exercising faith is easy in retrospect. At the time, however, it can be filled with anxious moments and can even seem quite foolish. But I have learned through experiences like this that our lives are taken to new heights when we surrender them to Him.
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. Hebrews 11:1 (The Message).
Darren Morton is a senior lecturer in health and exercise science at Avondale College, and lives in Cooranbong, New South Wales.