We’ve been chatting a lot recently about university – it’s the beginning of a new academic year, and a lot of us are heading of for new adventures. Last Wednesday we heard from Dee, who shared her story with us around going to uni.
But university isn’t for everyone. I asked our friend Pete to share his story with us: a few years ago, Pete headed off to the University of Reading to study Maths; and then found himself coming home to Cambridge not long after. We’re so proud of Pete – he’s pursuing God with all he’s got and his life is one giant adventure – but university didn’t need to be a part of that journey. We’ve shared Pete’s fuller story on the blog before: you can read that here.
Over to you, Pete!
When I was at sixth form, maths was one of my strongest subjects. Until this point, I had never struggled academically: I was the kid with good grades, and I had always expected that to continue – that I’d sail through my degree and into a secure career. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but looking back I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I started a maths degree at Reading Uni, thinking “everyone likes a maths degree, I could get any job in the world”. I thought I was going to become a rich accountant without a financial care in the world. But after I had been there for only two months, I began to realize that this wasn’t “me” at all: I didn’t enjoy maths, and I certainly didn’t want to waste away in an office for the rest of my life – there was more in me than that.
So what do you do when you’ve got this far, and you think you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere? I want to encourage you that it’s totally OK to change your mind!
It was decision time. I knew that the things that mattered most to me were God and music, so I made the decision that I was going to pursue that instead. So, I dropped out of my maths degree, with no idea of what that was going to look like. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made – I ended up studying Audio and Music Technology the following year, back home in Cambridge: definitely the right thing for me, and I went on to continue pursuing God and music.
One of the hardest things to deal with in that time was the feeling of failure. I never thought I’d be the guy who drops out of uni. “What happened? Where did I go wrong? Will I ever be able to succeed at anything again? I’d always been so sure that I could achieve whatever I did, but now I’m not so sure…”
Let’s look at some people from the Bible, who knew what that feeling is like:
1 – Joseph.
Joseph was a young man, probably about 17. He lives with his family, and is deeply loved by his father. However, his brothers don’t share this affection, and decide to throw him into a ditch – charming. His family think he’s dead and he gets picked up, and sold into slavery. He then becomes head of the servants at the house he’s a slave at, and the master’s wife tries to sleep with him, he gets accused of adultery and put in prison for 3 years in Egypt. After this he interprets the Pharaoh’s dream and gets made prime minister, second only to Pharaoh in the whole of Egypt.
So Joseph finds himself in a ditch, and then in a dungeon: we can only imagine the confusion and feelings of betrayal towards his brothers, but Joseph was a dreamer. In all the times when Joseph’s life looked like it really wasn’t going to plan, he kept dreaming, and the Bible tells us that he began to prosper “because God was with him”. So, like Joseph, whatever feelings of failure you may face, keep your eyes on Jesus and keep dreaming, He’s not done yet.
2 – Jonah.
God tells Jonah to go and tell the people of Nineveh to turn back to God. Jonah doesn’t want to, because he knows that they will turn back, and that God will be merciful to them: Jonah thinks they don’t deserve forgiveness, so he goes as far as he can in the opposite direction. Because Jonah has disobeyed, there’s a big storm and he gets thrown off the boat by the other sailors, and swallowed by a great fish.
Jonah 3:6 tells us that the king of Nineveh heard about everything that Jonah had been through and turned back to God:
“When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust”
So in other words… God used the story of Jonah’s mistakes, wrong directions and failures to win an entire city back.
It’s amazing how in life God really does work out all things for the good of those who love Him. Even now I sit in job interviews, and the employers are impressed at the word “maths” on my CV, even though it clearly says I only studied it for two months – they somehow skim over that bit. God uses everything! But boy, am I glad I didn’t stick around in that degree any longer than 2 months!
So – it is totally OK to change your mind, and even if you think you’ve made a wrong turn – God will find a way to use that too.
Keep on keeping on.