"May I ask what kind of novels this class requires students to read? Could I have some examples?"
She nodded. "Of course."
Lightly tapping my fingers on the wooden table, my eyes gazed into the cool gray ones of the college advisor. She tucked a stray wisp of curly blond hair behind her ear and leaned back into her office chair.
My mother sat nearby, jotting down book titles on notepaper. My college advisor began listing titles, highlighting storylines that I had never before heard of. Nevertheless, we proceeded to sign up for classes. (This particular class - though it had nothing to do with my degree - was mandatory.)
God's leading seemed so clear and distinct. I had finally decided on what I wanted to do, and a community college had recently established the program I was interested in. The enrolling process had progressed smoothly, and everything apparently fit into place. With excitement I looked forward to learning new things and being a witness in new territory.
Clutching a list of classes in hand, I skipped up to the door of our family's log cabin with exciting news about progressing college plans. It wasn't long before I took out my laptop and searched the sample book titles on the internet, scanning over Wikipedia summaries with a friend.
Time almost stood still. I can't read this. Foul language, immoral elements, murder and bloodshed, violence. There was no doubt in my mind that I couldn't fill my mind with such filth, much less analyze and discuss it with detail in the classroom.
Praying for wisdom, I picked up my phone to dial Kate, my college advisor.
"May I have a religious exemption? Each of the novel examples you listed contained material with bad language, violence, and immorality. As a Christian, I can't fill my mind with these things."
She paused. "I can ask the dean about this, but it may take me a week or so to get back to you. However, I would like to mention that considering issues outside of your worldview can be extremely beneficial. A lot of things can be learned by embracing the world with an open mind. The same issues you find in the selected reading, you will find in today's society."
I listened as she continued.
"I strongly suggest that you should take this class. You will face many of the issues discussed during the course of your life, and it could be very beneficial to you in the long run. You can always step out of the room when the class discusses a sensitive issue to you," she suggested, and then added with a hint of warning, "Just so long as you're willing to face the consequences for it."
"Thank you," I told her. "I understand what you're saying. I'm not afraid to face these issues, but I can't consciously fill my mind with them, as a Christian. I would still appreciate it if you could share my request for the religious exemption."
Anxiously I awaited a reply. Second thoughts about my career, my school of choice, and the years ahead affected by this decision glazed through my mind. I hoped that the requested exemption would be granted so that I could attend this school, but hesitated to wonder if this had been God's plan after all.
I received the phone call. The matter had been discussed, and I had to decide between taking this class - or not attending the college period. As this door firmly shut with a resounding thud, I wondered and waited.
This event marked the beginning of a long pathway of considering different options and researching one online program after another only to move on. Finally we were led to Allied Health Institute based in Florida. It offered the same degree in Medical Assisting that I had planned on taking from the community college. It was difficult to contain my excitement on the day my school started. It didn't begin walking down the echoing hallway of my community college, but at my computer in my bedroom.
7 months later, I am satisfied. This is what He wanted. Even though it wasn't what I was looking for at first, this program gave me the opportunity to stay at home everyday and keep up the practical skills of life interspersed with studying. It is preparing me to become a certified medical assistant when the winds of change shift into crisp fall breezes.
Tracing back over the past few years, many events have taken place where I had been convinced that God was leading. He was - but so often, not in the way or direction I expected, and even hoped. Future years hold many things in store, but I'm aware that His leading will often result in dreams maybe far different than mine.
But when God says "no," I can cherish the trust that He knows better than this human heart. Why is it so easy to distrust Him Who sees all things, when I myself am blind? How can my heart ever think that He doesn't understand, when my own heart is cold and numb, but His has felt all of the pain of sin for me.
When God says "no," His children can be assured that He has something better in store. When the doors close with a resounding echo that strikes at the core of our heart, we can trust His to know better.