I wrote an email in August. Just a simple inquiry stating my possible interest in pursuing studies at a master's level in the discipline of Theology. I do have a rather ancient Bachelor of Theology from a bible college which is not accredited, so I wanted to know how that would translate into further studies at a major university. I love learning in general, but have often found it difficult to pin the tail on that illusive donkey of higher education because my interests are spread across so many fields, especially the arts. How can I pick just one? Since my first degree pointed me in a "most likely to get somewhere" direction, I decided to start there. Ask a few questions. Find out the options. No harm in that. And since we now live within an easy 25 minute commute on public transportion to downtown, it seemed like the perfect time to explore the possibility.
I had done some research into Theology programs in universities in Montreal, and the scope and tone of the one at Concordia excited me the most, partly because it included a project option instead of all research and writing, plus it boasted a faculty focused on interpretation of the Bible. I'm into that.
The first response to my email was a request to meet in person. Okay, that was positive. I forwarded the list of courses from my first degree and after a few schedule conflicts, we were able to hit upon an agreed date and time for the meeting. The morning I took the subway down to the university, I was just recovering from a church retreat that I had organised and felt slightly under-prepared for the rendez-vous, my mind and body still reeling from a weekend packed with activities and people which left me with no time to myself to contemplate (my major form of preparation). Oh well. It wasn't an entrance exam, it was only a wee meeting with the graduate adviser. Surely a few bags under my eyes would add to the "I could be a student" look.
Within a few minutes of shaking his hand, the adviser was outlining a few courses for me to take, 4 in total, in preparation for entering the master's program. One of the them was starting that evening, so he marched me across the hall to the office of the professor who was teaching it and she told me (with a confident salesman smile on her face) that I simply must take this course because it would enable me to write better research papers and give me a solid foundation in everything from exegesis to interpretation to milking a cow (she was very enthusiastic). She also informed me that this course was only offered every two years so it was an opportunity not to be missed. The fact that I was not a registered student and only there to ask a few questions which would enable me to think about my options for a few months didn't seem to matter to anyone.
I walked out of the office with a map of the campus, a book of current courses offered by the university, a large pink sticky note with the adviser's suggested courses scribbled in pencil, and my heart beating slightly faster. I called Dean and told him I was going to check out a class that night. Contrary to his usual, "How much is this going to cost?" line, he simply said, "You go, girl!" I love this man!
Four days later, I feel like my life has been placed in a bag of crispy shake and bake and given a good toss. I now get up at 6:40 am 5 days a week (for those of you who know me, this is a change along the scale of some hectic jet lag) to spend 4.5 hours in an intensive French course (I had already signed up for this before my interview at the university). Two afternoons and one evening are spent at the university where I am enrolled in two fourth year undergraduate courses. I have already selected a text for one research paper and the reading due for one of my next classes is sitting on my kitchen table, half-finished. In the past few days, I have managed to register as an independent student, snarled my way through forms and online details and affidavits required to get the correct tuition rates, stood in line to buy school supplies and textbooks, got a student ID card, and with the help of a diligent administrator, bypassed those pesky pre-requisites that blocked me from one course.
I have definitely felt shaken and baked this week and battled some exhaustion as my schedule took a ride on the tilt-a-whirl. Nothing that a little bit of organisation and streamlining and asking God for his perspective and wisdom can't fix. Oh, and a bowl of popcorn and some steaming chai tea are good for the soul, too. But overall, the sensation is of being very much alive, of my head and heart and soul leaning forward into the wind of some great journey that I can't fully see the end of.
Some have told me, in their cynical, glass-half-empty way, that the Theology program must not be too full and they are looking for students to fill their classrooms and their coffers. But I make it a habit not to listen to cynics. One of the people at home group on Wednesday night was talking about times in your life when the door of opportunity swings open before you, a chance that does not come your way often, a time in your life when rapid growth and change and the favour of God and men rests on you in a special way. And it is those times when you fling yourself through the doorway with force. You go ahead full speed, you seize the day and the hour and the minute, you ride this grace for however long it lasts, and you put your back and your legs and your heart into it so that you can cover as much ground as possible. He called this "doubling down," a blackjack strategy used when you come into a situation where you have been dealt extraordinarily good cards. You double your bet because you want to get everything out of this incredible opportunity.
And this is my time. I am sprinting forward. There are risks: I still don't know how much this will cost and how exactly we will pay for this, nor how long this degree will take me or if I will even do well in these preliminary courses or have any new options available to me after this is all over. But I must go. I must double down. I would be crazy not to.
This is the view from the top of the hill overlooking Lake Oaureau, which we came upon on Sunday afternoon at the church retreat after a one hour uphill climb. Totally worth it.