So yesterday I woke up to an email telling me that I passed my PGDip with commendation.
Which is completely-heart-bubbling-over-awesome-news for me.
In normal-English, what this means is that everything I need to do for my Masters, except for my dissertation, is now handed in completed, marked and approved by the exam board.
And not just passed, but passed well.
So right now, I could graduate with a PGDip in Community Learning and Development with Theology. When I complete my dissertation later this year, that should become an MTh.
I'm so incredibly thankful to so many people who have helped and supported me in this study-journey over the last two years. (Because, you know, without anything else, working full time and studying part time is super difficult!)
I'm so incredibly thankful to Jesus.
I'm so thankful for the place of safety Bible College has been for me and the healing that came with that. And I'm so incredibly thankful because my life journey alongside this study journey has been anything but typical.
About two years ago I began this Masters programme.
That day, the day I got in my car and drove to Glasgow, is the same day the legal separation papers were stamped for what had become an increasingly difficult and abusive 5 year marriage.
I arrived at the house of some family friends with the words 'Never come back again!' ringing in my ears, a pretty fragile emotional state, and a physical condition that meant I was suffering some classic effects of stress and depression.
I was not in prime condition for study. I was not in any condition for study. I had no idea why I felt God had asked me to begin a Masters at a point in my life where it felt that absolutely everything else was falling apart. I had no idea what use I could ever even be to God with the shame of everything that had happened to me hanging over my heart and the prospect of being a divorcee in the impending future as my reality.
I was a mess.
There is absolutely no other word for it.
I was a broken mess.
I can't really remember how I made it through that first teaching week, other than the daily love and support of a couple of beautiful-Jesus-radiating individuals who had known me since I was born seeing me off on my daily commute. I spoke to no one at Bible College about my home situation. I was petrified of being rejected. I had no idea how to articulate what I was going through or feeling to near-strangers… Even strangers who really loved Jesus.
I thought I did a pretty good job of holding it together. One of my course-mates later told me that in that first week she saw brokenness all over me every day and wept in intercession for me even though she had no idea what was going on.
Turns out I'm really bad at pretending everything is ok.
A few months later I was back at Bible College for a second teaching week. I stayed with the same restoring-environment-of-people-who-are-like-my-second parents, had taken a few steps forward on the journey of processing everything (including my own mistakes…), and cried through my story in front of my tutor.
A tutor who looked at me and said the most comforting words I could have ever received… 'Peta, you will receive no judgement from us here…' I think at that moment, I began to understand something of why God had asked me to study in a season where everything else was shaken. I felt safe. I felt something of the heart of God. There were people who loved Jesus, and loved me and just wholeheartedly wanted to see me come out of the other side of that heartbreaking journey whole.
They believed me, believed in me and they believed in a God who could and would heal me.
That week another lecturer from the Bible College asked to meet with me to pray and talk more. As I told him my story, and began to articulate experiences, mistakes and regrets, I will never forget the moment that he looked at me, sharing my pain, and said 'You must have been terrified…'
In those five words I totally broke down. The articulation of this deep fear that I had held onto and never really spoken of and never dealt with or given to Jesus was just put out there. I cried. And cried. I cried so much over the weeks and months that followed.
It turns out that lecturer who'd asked to pray with me had written a paper on divorce and remarriage in situations like mine not even a year previously. I began to read again, to revisit Scripture, to realise God was for me and not against me and really believe it. God began to heal my heart as I simultaneously started to theologically wrestle with the questions that had left me wounded in other ways. I got proper help. To deal with how I saw God. To process forgiveness. To let go and receive.
Lectures on justice and freedom spoke truth to me, the kindness of others and the relationships I built spoke truth to me, the Holy Spirit spoke truth to me. Over and over again.
People accepted me. And loved me. And believed in me. And encouraged me to keep going. And affirmed I was called to Japan. And had faith when I didn't. And didn't reject me.
They showed me Jesus in more ways than I can express.
The last two years have been an incredible journey of healing and freedom. But also some of the most painful and wrestling moments on that journey of healing and freedom. I've been through some of the most stressful life changes you can go through. I've not had it all together most of the time. It has been so incredibly difficult for so many incredibly difficult reasons.
But this January I was back at Bible College for my final 2 weeks of teaching and I felt… Whole.
There has been beauty from brokenness and ashes, and there has been joy for mourning.
There is joy for mourning.
I have so much to be thankful for, because I know what it is to be rescued by a God who knows the best and most complete ways to heal and restore a life.
And so… Passing with a commendation is a blessing. But maybe just really the peak of the healing mountain that this last 2 years has been.
He's so good to us, and so incredibly faithful.
And now… I have a dissertation to finish.
Oh, these last few days have been pretty fun… Involved a fair amount of silly faces and copious amounts of food. I have some of the greatest friends, it must be said.
And every day of joy, is a day that I am heart-overflowingly-and-abundantly-thankful for.
Thank you Jesus, for everything.
I love You.