May is often an exciting month. In addition to the Gemini in our lives being on their wildest behavior, most people are often in refreshed, hopeful moods. Graduations, summer barbecues, and fresh blooming flora greet us as we prepare for another chapter in our lives. “Things may just be okay,” is the whisper I hear from the month of May. Or, as I learned, things may go in a completely different direction.
Two weeks before I was scheduled to graduate from dental school with my Doctorate of Dental Surgery, I experienced unanticipated setbacks in clinical procedures, leaving me just shy of the graduation requirements I needed to earn a diploma on time. Though frustrated and slightly dejected, I remained hopeful and steadfast, reminding myself that a few more appointments at the dental school were the only thing separating me from accomplishing my goal and obtaining that fancy piece of paper.
Then I failed a part of my clinical licensing exam.
Before I opened the website with my provisional results, I had a bad feeling about my performance on a particular section of the 5-part exam.The opened link confirmed what I already knew thanks to the ominous knots my stomach was wringing. Contrary to popular belief, my least favorite F-word is FAIL. The four letter foe stared back at me, seemingly sealing my fate and crumbling all the hope I had for my month of May.
I pause here to allow you to refer to images of Britney Spears during her 2007 meltdown for an idea of what I was feeling.
Many thoughts went through my head that day, but I mainly spent hours sobbing near my parents, rereading the book of Job like it was my diary, and asking God, “Why is this happening to me?”
Thankfully, the Lord is always faithful to answer that question.
The story of Jesus and the woman at the well is popular for multiple reasons. In John 4:1-30, Jesus pulls several counterculture moves all for the sake of glorifying His Father. He goes through a land avoided by most to meet a female pariah at a well. After speaking the truth about the woman who was at the end of herself, calling out her sinful past and in turn offering her living water and living truth, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman. She becomes one of the first people to know Jesus as the Christ, and her life is changed forever. Pretty cool, right?
Let’s remember that Jesus didn’t originally intend to go to Samaria. In John 4:3-4, we see that Jesus left Judea for Galilee, and he didn’t just go to Samaria. He had to go through Samaria. Not only did he cross through the territory of the Jewish’ archenemy, but he also stopped in this small, seemingly insignificant town of Sychar. Having paused for multiple rest stops in locations my sweet mother would describe as “behind God’s back” (and we know there is no such place-tis a joke), I know that sometimes detours can be pretty unfavorable. In addition to stopping in Sychar, Jesus chose to meet this woman at a well in the sweltering middle of the day. As a proud survivor of countless Houston summers, I know that in certain conditions, you only leave home if absolutely necessary. In this case, the woman was so ashamed and disgraced by her state that she dared not go to the well at a normal time because that meant she’d encounter a ton of people. Remember in Mean Girls when Katie took her lunch to the bathroom stall to evade the glares of her judgemental classmates? Nuff said.
…Jesus left Judea for Galilee, and he didn’t just go to Samaria. He had to go through Samaria.
But again, Jesus had to go to Samaria. It was neither planned nor convenient. But it was absolutely necessary. God used this woman’s mess to glorify His name and save her from herself. Worth the sunburn and sweat stains, wouldn’t you agree?
I don’t want to pretend that I was exceptionally eager to go to San Francisco. Failing part of my licensing exam consumed me in the most negative way for several weeks. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, bewildered, angry, and dejected. The process of continuing to practice in a lonely lab as all my friends left for graduation trips and posted official DDS photos felt emotionally and mentally painful. The financial stress was a whole different ball game. Enduring another high anxiety exam in a different state around dental students I don’t know was another step out of my comfort zone I had no desire to take. Even after I passed the section (praise hands emoji x 10!), I struggled with insomnia and stress for several nights afterwards.
But God. He used my unexpected trip to provide me with so much more than I would have crafted by my own devices. I had previously been a little bummed at having to let go of a graduation trip prospect , and somehow I ended up taking fire selfies and enjoying the sights in beautiful wine country (after my exam, of course).I undoubtedly strengthened my clinical skills from all the extra practice (you can call me Root Canal Ravey!) Though it was unfortunate that a small group of classmates also had to fly to retake a portion of the exam, the experience took us from friends to family, and we shared a unique bond that will last for years past graduation. I received support and encouragement from faculty members, friends, and even parents of friends I wouldn’t have grown close to otherwise. I was able to boast about the Lord’s faithfulness even in my darkest valley to those with me and those far away. He exposed hints of entitlement in my heart, and reminded me that my love for the Lord will never ever guarantee that my life will go according to my plans (John 16:33).
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
I would have never become an amateur sommelier, better dentist, or a more humbled, trusting daughter of the King without my unanticipated trip to California. If I’m being honest, I’m still struggling to say out loud that I would do it all over again, but I’m afraid that is truly how I feel. My month of May was another reminder that sometimes God takes us through ugly Samaria (or expensive San Francisco) to reveal something He’s going to make beautiful in us. I hope that sharing this can encourage someone going through a Samaria that He will indeed finish everything He started in us (Philippians 1:6), and that He will always use our darkest moments to shine His love in our lives (Romans 8:28).
4 thoughts on “By Way of Samaria, or San Francisco”
And so you experienced Philippians: 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This my family’s favorite bible verse. I am honored to have such a scholar in you as part of my family.
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Thanks so much, Aunt Etwin! You’re so so right. Love you, truthteller!
It sounds almost like you were in the Refiner’s fire (I Peter 1:7). We praise God for your end result! Whatever the challenge, always keep the faith and praise your way through it!
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Refiner’s fire, indeed! Thanks, Mrs. Carouthers 🙂 God is faithful!