Gratitude: Reflections at an Academic Waypoint

In the next few weeks, I am hoping to submit my thesis. I'm not at the summit of my academic career (at least, I hope I'm not!) but I am approaching a significant waypoint that I've been working towards for three years. I don't really know what I expected to feel as I approached the final incline: victory, perhaps? I certainly don't feel that. I do feel wondrous awe and gratitude, though: at this natural pausing place in my academic (and life) journey, God has pulled me aside, turned me around, and shown me where I am and where I've come. It's a beautiful view.

I can see all the difficult bits of the journey that had to be negotiated to get here; there are many challenges ahead too, I'm sure, but I don't need to think about them right now—I don't always need to be fixed on the next earthly summit. I am commanded, however, to remember God's faithfulness. And what a grace-filled path I see behind me! God not only brought me to this academic peak (higher than I ever really expected to reach), but he has also filled my journey with innumerable blessings along the way. Little ones—good days of writing and breakthroughs in research—and then big ones—of faith, family, and friendship—that I never expected to receive. His plans were so much better than my own.

I'm not very good at remembering my blessings. I manage (somehow) to take nearly all of them for granted—and nearly all the time! I think that's why we need Sabbaths—times when we aren't striving and fixed on a goal; times when we turn around, sit down, remember, and give thanks for what has passed. I wish I was better at doing that each week: stopping and being thankful for gifts given rather than anxious about receiving more in the future. Submitting my thesis is a significant waypoint perhaps, but actually, I am given the opportunity to look back and give thanks for God's mercies and care everyday. 

Even in the valleys, there was much to give thanks for, if only I let myself pause and see it. Whatever stage you are at in your academic career or life, I would encourage you to turn around and look at where you've come and rejoice in the goodness of the Lord! (Philippians 4:4)

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