On Friday, I “officially” graduated from my Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney. Well, technically I graduated two years prior but yesterday, I had the ceremony.
The reason my graduation was delayed by two whole years is all the stuff I write about on this blog. I started my Honours year in History twice, and dropped out both times. Then I became Catholic and a year later, realised that I never formally graduated. I never got the gown, the champagne, the photos in the quad, or to shake the Chancellor’s hand on the dias of the Hogwarts-worthy Great Hall.
Not having that ceremony, small as it was, came to represent all the disruption and confusion of the past two years. It seems such a small thing, but often it’s the small things that matter. I never imagined that I wouldn’t do Honours. I had it all planned. My project was on ceremony, nationalism and visual media in relation to the Delhi Durbar and Investiture of the Prince of Wales, both held in 1911. It was going to be wonderful. And it should have been, I mean, I started it twice!
But sometimes – often – oh, how am I kidding? invariably – God has a different plan. When I write it like that, it kind of sounds exciting, like a treasure hunt or an adventure. Except it never is, it it? It’s just confusing and painful. It hurts your heart so bad. And instead of graduating with Honours in that Great Hall, I felt like I’d secretly failed and just slipped out a side door.
Which is how I felt becoming Catholic. Although I often talking about “becoming” Catholic, I don’t talk about the pain of “un-becoming” an Evangelical Protestant. That hurt badly too. Over this past year, I have often wished that I didn’t have to become Catholic. Not that I wish I wasn’t Catholic, or that I wouldn’t do it all over again in heartbeat. But I wish it hadn’t been necessary, that I hadn’t come to the conclusions I did. Just like I never imagined not doing Honours, I never imagined I would leave my church family of six wonderful years with a few awkward conversations, a hasty announcement, and a harshly worded email from my senior minister about how I wasn’t a Christian.
That sense of incompleteness, of just slipping out a side door, has clung to me. I didn’t realise how much or how deeply it all hurt. But having graduated, having had that ceremony and that closure, I do feel like a particularly bruising chapter in my life is ending. It’s a beautiful sense of freedom and healing.
My favourite bit is that I graduated on the feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. More than anything else, His Heart has been my still point these past years. To find such healing on the feast of His Heart? It’s feels like a special gift, a beautiful pledge of His love. For whatever my silly heart was feeling through the past two years, He has always been with me.
And now that time is passing away, and a new chapter is beginning. I am seeing how good the plans of God are. Because as disappointed as I was not to do Honours, I have loved studying theology this year even more. And my Lord knows where my heart is, which is why I will soon be beginning a research Master of Philosophy. I love being able to study my faith. I love that I’m going to have a nun for a supervisor.
But most of all, I love that my thesis will be on the Most Sacred Heart of my Lord.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.