Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Elementary, My Dear

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

Picture it: London, April 2004. Late morning. My best friend and I hopped off the underground at Baker Street on our way to Madame Tussaud's.

It was my junior year of college. I was an English and writing major, really because I couldn't be anything else, but with very little idea what God wanted me to do with my life. He had made it abundantly clear the year before that He wanted me to go to England. Oh, I whined and wailed and hemmed and hawed and petulantly exhorted Him to let me stay in my tiny college town in Pennsylvania, knowing all along that He'd never let me. He just kept pointing at England. Still, I waited as long as I could, staring at the study abroad application for hours. I knew what would happen if I went. I knew it would be the hardest thing I'd ever done. "Are you SURE??" I'd ask God over and over, then ten minutes later, get stuck in traffic behind a truck that had ENGLAND emblazoned on the back. He was sure. So I went.

By April 2004, I had spent the previous nine months in the picturesque northern English city of Lancaster, studying abroad at Lancaster University. My best friend had spent a similar amount of time in France for the same purpose. Finally, she was visiting me, and I met her in London for barely 48 hours of catching up on each other's lives and exploring all of London we could in the time we had.

It had, indeed, been the most challenging, most rigorous, most emotionally-wrenching, most faith-enforcing year I had ever experienced. I had felt loneliness I never imagined possible. Culture shock turned me into someone I didn't recognize. I was in love with a man who didn't know God and couldn't fully return my unconditional affection, but the overwhelming nature of my love for him caused me to make stupid mistakes. The roller-coaster my emotions were strapped onto as a result made me frantic and volatile, and many times I'd burst into tears without any real idea as to why.

But then again...God was there. I heard His very voice one morning, more clearly than I had ever heard Him before, as I woke up on my ex's couch and squinted into the December sunlight. He met me there, in the tumult and the anxiety and the wondering what on Earth I was doing there, on that couch and in life in general. He said, "I have created you to entertain. That's what you were made to do."

Over the next few months, God impressed upon me that it was screenwriting, specifically, that He wanted me to pursue, and that I should do so within a Master's program for which I would return to England after graduating from my university in Pennsylvania. Grateful for some direction at last, I began to pour my energy into searching out where He wanted me to go for my Master's degree. I felt like it was meant to be London. One evening, sitting in my little dorm room in Lancaster combing through university websites, I found the University of Westminster and their brand-new Master's program for Screenwriting and Producing for Film and Television. From the description, it looked perfect. I made a mental note of the school's name and thought "I'll have to figure out where it is in London and visit before I go back to the States." That was as far as I had gotten by the time my best friend and I stepped out onto Baker Street on that drizzly April day.

We turned left out of the tube station and started down the street in search of Madame Tussaud's. On the way, my friend excitedly dragged me into a souvenir shop to look at Sherlock Holmes merchandise. While she was absorbed in picking out a present for her dad, I wandered around the shop aimlessly, and suddenly, out of nowhere...it all caught up with me.

The room started spinning. I felt like I couldn't move. If I did move, all I wanted to do was walk outside and lie down in front of a bus. It was a hopelessness and despair like I had never known before. It was crushing, enveloping, strangling. My eyes blurred. I started shaking. The enemy started whispering to me fervently, things like you're worthless. Nothing will ever change. Look at what happened this year. You deserved it. You're nothing.

I remember the flashes of the crystal knick-knacks blinding me as I kind of staggered in circles around the display, helpless. Somehow, I realized I couldn't conquer this alone. I started crying out to God silently, just calling again and again on the name of Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Lord. Help me. Please, help me. I can't do this. I need You. Only You can do this. You have to help me!

The crushing feeling started to lift. My eyes cleared a little. Even so, I kept crying out. Lord, why?? Why did You have me come here? Why did You let all this happen? Show me. Show me what You want me to do now. Give me a sign, Lord. Please. Give me a sign.

My friend finished her shopping just at the time I felt strong enough to leave the store. She didn't know anything had happened. We kept walking down the street toward Madame Tussaud's and found it three minutes later, but when we got to the door, we balked at the prices - £20.00 per person! That was $40.00 each - entirely too expensive for us.

So, disappointed, we turned around to go back to the tube.

And there, across the street, was the University of Westminster.

If I remember correctly, I literally shrieked. I jumped up and down and hugged my best friend ecstatically. She had no idea what was going on and thought I was crazy. (She still does, actually, but for oh, so many more reasons!)

A little over a year later, I received an acceptance email two hours after my phone interview with the course director of the MA program in Screenwriting and Producing for Film and Television at the University of Westminster. There were only 12 of us. I was the second-youngest. And I spent another life-changing year in England in 2006, fulfilling what God had shown me when I asked.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:7-8

So, if you ever find yourself wondering what to do, it's really very easy to find out: just ask! He will tell you. Somehow. Every time.