85, 95, 99% ?! Woe is me!
I always expected to be the top of my class. And when I was at the top of my class I didn't feel any special sort of pride; I rather it took for granted, as ordinary reality. I felt no more pride at being the top student than I did in being a resident of the state of California. It's just where I was. As I advanced in my education, being the best became harder until it became being among the best, as in college. By the time I got to my masters degree, I had matured enough that being the best, or among the best, didn't come to mind. (Though keeping that spotless 4.0 was still a priority.) Still, there was never any question about if I could successfully complete an M.Div. degree. Of course I could. Of course I would. Of course!
I always had more than enough self-confidence.
Doing doctoral studies is the sort of thing that when people find out you're doing it they are somehow compelled by social or natural forces to utter some words of awe. The raised eyebrows, perhaps a whistle or the slow nodding, words like "Wow!" or "I could never do something like that," or "They don't just give those things away." Almost without fail, people react by acting impressed. This makes me quite uncomfortable, very eager to downplay the entire enterprise or to ridicule myself. "Don't be too impressed yet," I warn, "I haven't got the degree yet!" Or, as if I were jabbing them jocularly in the ribs, I say, "Well, what can I say? I'm just a nerd. We'll see how it goes."
Except that all my hemming and hawing is not mere empty social posturing (which I dislike very much). It does, rather, betray that I actually do not have self-confidence on this point. I have self-doubt. I seriously doubt if I can successfully complete a PhD. Maybe I'm too naive, or too ignorant, or too dull, or too lazy, or too busy, or too faithless. I'm probably "too" something, and I probably don't have what it takes to finish. Resigning from my job and enrolling in this pricey degree may have been an expensive and career-fatal move, perhaps one of the dumbest life decisions I've made.
But perhaps not. Likely it is a Fatherly invitation, part of God's mission to humble me. Probably it is God's schoolroom for me wherein I might learn humility and faithfulness, to trust Him whatever, neverminding the settled sense of unease. I am, after all, His "gifted child." ;)
So I go forward, resolving to no longer waver uncertainly in my speech about this doctoral degree, receiving the fear as an invitation to trust and obey, ignoring the self-centered folly which counsels me to give up, and walking confidently under the direction of His dreams within me. Walking--despite these short legs!