On Monday morning I had my most intimidating meeting I had so far in my life—my oral defense of my Master’s Thesis (then called: “Paul’s Use of Torah for his Paraklesis in the New Testament Church—An Exegetical Study of Romans 12”).
As I was an hour early (this might have something to do with my German genes), I had plenty of time to pick up the forms needed, to check out the room, and to reread the Greek text of Rom 12. About two minutes prior to the official start the two members of the committee came in and pretty soon the examination started.
If I have ever felt like being pushed to my outer limits of my mental capacity, this was the day. The second reader (who usually plays the “bad cop”) started with his questions, some of which I was able to answer, some of which I marveled at, some of which I was just dumbfounded.
After a 60-70 min examination I was sent out of the room so that the readers could come to agreement and tell me the outcome of the process. I do not know how long this normally takes, but it took to long in my mind.
The outcome was a conditional pass. Yes, a pass! I was glad (at least the days after), BUT it was conditional which means that major revisions were/are needed. After I listened to the critique and the advice, my goal was to walk as fast as I could to my car to let my emotions have their way—I was glad I met no one on the way to the car!
The car ride was difficult, but standing in front of the entrance to our house was the final push. I could hardly open the door. Once inside, I crashed and cried so hard I haven’t in a while.
Many more things can be mentioned in this emotional rollercoaster. My major point, however, is to talk about how to deal with such an experience. This will only be some brief thoughts of mine; nothing too deep and nothing too shocking.
When we encounter such a setback—I was told to entirely cut out 90 pages of my thesis (roughly a 2-3 months work) and to write an entire new chapter—one of our initial thoughts is to just throw the towel, to give up. I also encountered that feeling. But I soon realized how foolish that would be. Not only, would I be stuck with not having finished my Master’s program, but I also would have wasted the other 50-60% of my thesis which was good!
The other mind-game which takes place is the blame-game. Whose fault was the conditional pass? Whom could I blame? Another question which quickly comes to mind is: Why did that happen? The “Why?” question is valid to a certain extent, but we need to keep in mind that sometimes we do not understand why certain things happen and that sometimes even if we do we cannot necessarily alter the situation (sometimes, however, to find out the reasons for certain circumstances help us to not commit the same errors or encounter the same issues!).
So my final response is to accept the challenge, to get up, to start new, and to give my best. Setbacks will happen in our lives, they are inevitable. The question is how we will deal with them. Will they defeat us or will they help us to become better followers of Christ, to show character and integrity, to persevere?