Literature

I don’t know what I am doing here. I think this is not meant for me.

If you’ve never uttered those phrases yourself, it’s likely you’ve heard it from those around you in school. After all, we live in a country that emphasises academic excellence as a means for future financial security.

The disappointment of not doing well despite having studied hard, or the anxiety that arises from not understanding what’s being taught, only add to the convenience of us claiming that a course is “wrong” for us – simply because we do not excel in it.

As a lover of books and reading throughout my entire life, literature was the obvious choice for me when I entered university.

I especially loved to daydream about the storylines and characters within the books I devoured. I had also consistently done well in the subject prior to university, so choosing to major in it seemed to be a foregone conclusion. In fact, I felt destined for it.

So it came as a shock to me in my freshman year, to learn that my work was only considered mediocre. Literature turned out to be a far more complex and difficult field that I had ever imagined it to be.

… I had wrongly expected blessings in the specific form of good results from Him just for walking with Him.

I tried so hard in the first two years to understand what was even being taught. I strived to write eloquent and insightful papers, but would be invariably crushed by disappointing and lacklustre results.

It was very easy to say that literature was not for me because I wasn’t doing well or enjoying myself. It was even easier for me to doubt and question God, because I had wrongly expected blessings in the specific form of good results from Him just for walking with Him.

God, if You placed this course in my heart, why am I not excelling in it then?

When I think of someone being in the “wrong course,” my mind goes to Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10).

His occupation as a tax collector was socially and religiously “wrong”. Jewish tax collectors were excommunicated from their synagogues because they worked for the Romans and were viewed as traitors (it didn’t help that they would overcharge the Jews for their own profit).

We also know that Zacchaeus was excellent in his work, as he was the chief tax-collector in Jericho. Ironically, his name means “pure one,” yet he chose a career that was considered tainted. But Zacchaeus’ name also reflects how God had chosen him even before he became a tax collector. Zacchaeus took his first steps to becoming a pure one when he climbed that tree to see Jesus.

Although we do not know if Zacchaeus remained a tax collector after his encounter with Jesus, we do know that he viewed his occupation with renewed perspective: “Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).

The Lord is sovereign, He knows the plans He has for all of creation truly and fully, but He is also a gracious God that allows us to make choices.

Though Zacchaeus chose to be a tax collector, God brought Zacchaeus from a wrong course back to Him. God didn’t have to, but He did. That’s mercy.

And just as God allowed Zacchaeus to excel despite being in the wrong place, He can also allow one to fail while being in the right place.

Because nothing will get in the way of God’s plan, and He will never fail.

It took an entire summer break for me to surrender my expectations and ambitions for being in literature at the foot of the cross, where I really made Him the centre of my life. It was only then that I got a fresh perspective on things.

Now as I finish my third year, I see how He’s been calling me to choose literature for a completely different reason. I’m called to more than just personal interests and academic excellence – my imagination and skills are being honed to bring Him glory through my writing.

As long as we turn to God, there is no place He will not bring us out from, to display His sovereign grace over us as His beloved.

About the author

Samantha Loh

Samantha is a creative who is inspired by the people and stories around her. She also loves striped tees and would love to pass her collection down to her future children. Currently level 1127 on Candy Crush.