St. timothy's Blog


The St. Timothy's Blog is a curated collection of interesting, thought-provoking, and inspirational posts written by people both in our community and beyond who inspire us to follow Jesus more wholeheartedly.



 

FAITH STORY FRIDAYS

Join us on Fridays as we share stories of God meeting us in our day-to-day lives in unexpected ways.


This week's story comes from our very own Dr. Arpita...

Saved by a Hail Mary Pass

 

I have come to realize some of my life’s crucial moments have been defined by a Hail Mary pass. For the uninitiated, the Hail Mary pass refers to achieving a difficult outcome in a desperate situation (in the American football context). This metaphor seems more apt than ever in light of a post-2020 world, a particularly trying year in every way possible. 


I started off the lockdown in March 2020 with hopes and dreams (odd timing indeed!). My one and only academic job application had gotten me to the campus interview stage (a huge deal!).

On the one hand, I still had a year of graduate funding if I needed it. On the other hand, was the possibility of a bright future with the sweet deal of graduating early WITH a job in hand. Plus, it didn’t hurt that my potential future colleagues seemed welcoming, and the beach was not too far away. It seemed the world was my oyster, and I was reigning supreme. My hopes and dreams were almost within my grasp, and I had a plan moving forward to add a cherry atop the beautiful sundae that God had waiting for me. 


The only caveat in the whole plan was that it didn’t happen. I didn’t get the job, which was no big deal, just slightly disappointing. I like to think that "disappointment" is my middle name, so I dusted off and moved forward because c’est la vie. 

 

 I entered my second season of job applications in the pandemic economy. The previously "optional" year of funding was a lifeline now. From day one of my graduate program, I knew that humanities jobs (read: academia) were lean and hard to come by. In true 2020 style, this old news managed to become even more disappointing in the face of pandemic-induced budget cuts and lay-offs. The academic market was starting to look a lot like the sinking Titanic. My immigration status as an international student heightened my job search woes because the visa clock was ticking. If I didn’t land a job in my field soon, I was looking at the possibility of being separated from family and returning to a home I hadn’t seen in 17 years, might I add, amidst a pandemic. 


Over my last fall semester, I taught myself a crash course on professionalizing outside academia. Between applying for jobs, writing my dissertation, teaching, and completing my other GA-ship, I learned to translate my cv into tailored resumes. I lived the introvert’s quintessential nightmare: talking to strangers. Bye-bye to a lifetime of lessons on “don’t talk to strangers, especially online” and hello to LinkedIn networking. My many informational interviews and chats pointed me to mostly exciting new roles and careers, all of which needed more work and breadth than what my resume currently documented. 


The truism “when it rains, it pours” couldn’t have been more accurate since my job rejections always came bundled, with a minimum of 2 rejections on the same day. At times, I received instant rejections right after hitting submit because I had the extra hurdle of seeking employment visa sponsorship. There were thin slivers of hope peppered in the journey, an interview here, a promise of an interview there, neither of them materializing further. 


I remember asking Jesus in prayer, “if my rejections are bundled, will my blessings be too?” I would like to say I heard a clear and resounding answer or saw a giant sign in the sky, but no, there was no supernatural voice speaking over me to clarify my doubts. I would have been grateful for that oft-described whisper of God’s voice in one’s heart, but no luck on that end either. 


However, I am thankful for the vociferous community of loving voices who spoke words of life over me when I was certain about my future being doomed. I am especially indebted to my mother (Jolly Mandal) and my friend, Dr. Derefe Chevannes, for praying for me and with me countless times. 


I wish I could say such an incredible force of love and support fully sustained me. It did not. Instead, I felt a lot like Peter in the fishing boat, throwing his net over and over again, exerting all his strength, only to reel in empty nets. The experience was exhausting and bone-tiring. I prayed over Isaiah 45:2-3 constantly:


I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze

and cut through bars of iron.

I will give you hidden treasures,
    riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord

the God of Israel, who summons you by name


While the Word was comforting many times, there were also times when reading over God’s promises felt like an empty recitation, simply a gesture.


I remember waiting for Easter Sunday, hoping for a Hail Mary pass, where my seemingly dead future would experience a resurrection too. Only, Easter Sunday came and went with no miracle. It seemed I was still stuck on Good Friday. 


Though I had many competing low moments (there were plenty), the one that stands out the most is the aftermath of filing for a visa extension, a necessary filing so I could have some more time to finish my dissertation. Only, at the moment, I wasn’t exactly sure why my eyes had decided to malfunction and incessantly tear up, getting in the way of my work. Looking back, I realize I had gotten used to suppressing my disappointments and hurts to push through each day’s tasks, to apply for another job, and chip away at my dissertation. I remember being alarmed about my tears washing out my precious (read: pricey) eye cream. Just because life was difficult didn’t’ mean I had to look haggard. So, I did what made the most sense in that panicky moment as I tried to save my eye cream money. I turned my face down so the tears would fall out of my eyes instead of rolling off my face and washing away the freshly applied cream. I have joked about my ludicrous actions quite a bit, but at that moment, I was desperate to assert control over one aspect of my life, to prevent one more thing from going awry.  


Despite what the Bible and my community said about God’s love and plans for me, I was convinced to the marrow of my bone that I was the sole exception to God’s love. I had to be, right? How else could I explain the combo offer of double rejections and the wall of employment sponsorship amongst other woes on my plate. I was sure that things were going wrong for me because, clearly, I was at fault somewhere and somehow. Only, I did not know what I was doing wrong and how I could fix the wrong to make my life right. Good Friday was here to stay  with no Easter Sunday in sight for me.


Looking back on this moment, I realize I couldn’t have misunderstood the significance of my words more. Though I associated Good Friday with loss, death, and mourning, Good Friday is the beginning and means for the resurrection to take place. Put another way, the seeming endpoint of Good Friday with Christ’s death is ironically the way for the beginning of resurrection. Of course, this realization (no pun intended) is the result of 20/20 hindsight. At the moment, my panic increased with each passing day as the months inched closer to graduation day. My preparations for walking the graduation ceremony with no job in hand and a huge question mark on the future seemed presumptuous at best and undeserving at worst. 


Right after that graduation walk, with 97 job applications out and the 98th one in the pipeline, I received my Hail Mary pass. I had an interview lined up soon after graduation, but I knew better than to be hopeful this time. Remember my middle name? Hint: disappointment. 


However, Jesus is a God of hope and resurrection. Abraham, Sarah, Peter, and Paul, to name a few, all have something in common: a new name and, with that, a new purpose. And like my Biblical ancestors, I, too, received a fresh start. God eventually answered my question regarding bundled blessings, though I did not hear a clear answer in the moment, especially in the ways I would have liked to hear. Jesus answered, albeit in His own time. I went through my interview, managed to knock over my laptop mid-interview, and yet, as is often said, the rest is history. The promise from Isaiah 45:2-3 that at one point had become a ritualistic mumble came alive powerfully in my life.


 Not only did God provide an amazing job, but He also gave the blessing of a work visa, cleared at lightning speed without costing me a penny, a miracle in itself. When I reflect on the conditions of my employment, I am amazed at how wonderful everything is and how I could NOT have engineered the situation in my favor, no matter how hard I tried. I needed a Hail Mary pass, a divine intervention, and I am utterly grateful to have received one. 


If you are waiting for your Hail Mary pass, know that it WILL come without exception. I write this because Jesus is a promise keeper. Sure, He doesn’t do things my way or on my time, but He does come through with His Word. As much as I would like to sync God’s watch with mine, I realize that if everything happened at my whim (how utterly convenient and delightful!), I wouldn’t experience my Easter Sunday resurrection nor witness this Hail Mary Pass. 

 

Wisdom for New Graduates: Saying "Yes" to God


Mother Theresa used to tell the story of the moment when God called her to care for the poorest of the poor. At the time she was a young nun with fragile health teaching geography at St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Calcutta—where her colleagues only remembered that she seemed kind of sickly and pretty ordinary. But on September 10th, 1946, this sickly, ordinary nun who nobody paid much attention to was riding on a train when she got a direct word from God about her future—what she described as her “call within the call.” As she said:

 

“The message was quite clear—I was to give up all and follow Jesus into the slums—to serve Him in the poorest of the poor. I knew it was His will and that I was to follow Him. There was no doubt that it was to be His work. I was to leave the convent and work with the poor, living among them. It was an order. I knew where I belonged but I did not know how to get there”


"I knew where I belonged but I did not know how to get there."  Mother Theresa's words likely resonate with many recent graduates.  After spending  years preparing for graduation, you finally get your diploma and you find yourself wondering "what's next?". You might have some idea of what you are passionate about, some sense of what you are gifted for, and some inkling of what you are called to, but how do you make the leap from an idea to reality, or from a call to a career?


Mother Theresa's life offers a powerful example of how to navigate seasons of transition and uncertainty when you know God has said "go" but you haven't yet been given the "how."  As she said about God's call to her on the train:


"And when that happens the only thing to do is to say ‘Yes.’"


At the time, she had no resources, no idea what she was doing, no way to get out of her commitment to high school teaching, and no assurance that her health would hold up.  But regardless of all these seemingly impossible circumstances, she knew she had to say “yes” to God and trust Him to work out the details. 


And He did. He provided the resources, the plan, the path, and the strength to do what He had called her to do. But it took patience, trust, and Mother Theresa's willingness to say "yes" to the opportunities God sent her way.  Each time God opened a door, she walked through it, regardless of how impractical or illogical it might seem. And each door brought her closer to where she needed to be, the "call within the call" that God had for her.


For everyone facing post-graduation uncertainty, may you have the courage to say "yes" when God calls you. He may speak to you in the most unlikely of places and He may call you to the most unexpected of futures, but may you share Mother Theresa's unquestioning trust that God's plans for you are the best plans for you. It might not be clear yet how God is going to move you from where you are to where He has called you, but if you have the courage and trust to say "yes" to HIs call and say "yes" to each opportunity He brings your way, you will be amazed at the how the seemingly impossible becomes entirely possible.

Faith Story Fridays

Join us on Fridays as we share stories of God meeting us in our day-to-day lives in unexpected ways. 


This week's story comes from our very own Dr. D...

Jobs and Job: Breaking Leads to Breakthrough


The biblical story of Job has always been a meaningful one to me, especially as an academic. It’s a head-scratching story, isn’t it? Here is Job, a good family man; a man of God. He is ethical and compassionate. The Lord believes that Job is a steadfast believer—unshakeable in faith. Lucifer disagrees. He argues Job only believes because his circumstances were good. After all, Job had everything he wanted (a rich, healthy family) and didn’t know much suffering.


All of this reminds me of a proverb I once read many years ago in an old devotional book. It goes something like this: The flower that blooms the best is one that blooms in the dead of winter. Lucifer’s criticism is simple: 
Job is a fair-weather believer.


When I was on the job market, I was besieged with anxiety, a broken spirit, anger and sometimes, being paralyzed by deep disbelief. As an immigrant, my visa was on the line. Finding a job wasn’t just about financial security, it was also about finding a new home. I remember praying for one job in particular; I really wanted it. But, I was rejected. I took that rejection personally. I took it spiritually. 
I felt worthless. I felt broken.


Tears was the only language I knew and I knew it well. I cried profusely. I distinctively remember asking God, like Job once did, WHY ME? What did I do? I believed I did everything right and yet, so much was being taken, from my beloved community (which took years to build and nurture), to the safety of having financial security. I was broken; indeed, I was heartbroken. 


Then one day I went back and I prayed again. This time I said: “Lord whatever your will is, I will accept. If I don’t any get jobs, You will give me the strength to cope. I don’t know how, but I trust that you will walk with me through the hot coals of life and I won’t perish.” 


That one prayer allowed me to transition from giving up to giving in


When we give up, we accept defeat and failure. Understandably, this leads to much fear, anxiety and hopelessness. But our faith in Jesus offers us victory.  So, I gave up giving up and started to give in. To give in means to lean into God’s enduring goodness. It means full surrender, regardless of our circumstances. It means finding peace and praise, in even perilous times. That no matter what happens, He will keep us; He will watch over us; He will rescue us. 


A few months later, I accepted a job that I love. My deepest prayer answered! Looking back, being on the academic job market taught me a valuable lesson. When I fully surrendered to His will, especially in the dead of winter, I understood what Job finally realized: breaking leads to breakthrough. 


It was in that moment I bloomed.

Faith Story Fridays

Join us on Fridays as we share stories of God meeting us in our day-to-day lives in unexpected ways. 


This week's story comes from Emily....

When I was a junior in college, I thought I had it all figured out. 


I was spending my junior year studying  at Oxford University in England and feeling like my life was coming together better than I ever could have imagined. I was drinking tea every morning in a little white cottage nestled behind a giant hedgerow. I was studying the  literature I loved and dreaming of graduate school.  And every Sunday I was sitting next to a cute British boy at church, often forgetting all about the sermon as I  wondered if our future children would have British accents.


One Sunday morning as I ambled down Cornmarket Street enjoying the spring sunshine  on my walk to church, I reviewed my future plans again. In six weeks, I would be on a plane back to the U.S. and getting ready for my senior year of college. I would start applying to graduate  school, ideally somewhere warm and sunny and not in New England. I would...


Then an unexpected thought interrupted my busy musings. It wasn't an audible voice, but it was definitely an internal voice  that stood in stark contrast to the rest of my inner monologue.


"I have so much more for you than you have for yourself."


The thought  was clear, unmistakable, and unshakeable. Not like my usual tumbling, babbling, disorganized thought process. 


Although I'd been a Christian my whole life, I'd never had any experience of God speaking directly to me. I wasn't sure I even believed it was possible. But that thought, that internal voice, was so unlike anything I had experienced before, so unlike anything I would say to myself, I couldn't help wondering...did God just speak to me? 


Distracted and confused, I hurried across the street, away from the crowded church entrance I was quickly approaching, and slipped  into the solitude of Christ Church Meadows, a beautiful open field that was usually full of people but was quiet and empty that Sunday morning.


Settling myself under a gnarled tree, I wondered again...did God just speak to me? I agonized over the question, reviewing everything I'd learned since childhood about what God did or didn't, could or couldn't, do. Something deep inside me, something deeper than my intellectual or theological convictions kept quietly and persistently confirming that God had indeed spoken to me, had indeed interrupted my plans with His better plans. After sitting under the tree for nearly an hour, that quiet, knowing finally defeated my roaring doubts. God had spoken to me.


That was my first taste of hearing God's voice and my first time experiencing God's perspective interrupting my own. Because I didn't have the theological foundation for it yet, it was perplexing, overwhelming, and a little terrifying. But I have never forgotten it.


I don't think I've yet experienced the fullness of this promise, but amidst various seasons of pain it has given me hope  to persevere. There is more for me. So much more for me. What I have lost or failed to achieve is nothing compared to what God has for me. More joy, more peace, more purpose for my life than I even yet envision possible. 


When God interrupted my morning musings that spring day with one simple sentence, I had no idea how His words would echo through the years to come. That brief, momentary encounter  opened my heart to the possibility that God could and would speak. And over a decade later I'm still learning to listen.