Flames and burning coal

Once upon a time the highs and lows came in abundance. The excitement of getting to know each other, the conversations that drag late into the night, having (or perceiving to have) so much in common, the fluttering heart and butterflies when you "accidentally" meet each other in the corridor, the ecstasy of just holding hands, and the purring contentment of simply being near the other person. On the other hand there were the tears of parting, even for a ridiculously short period of time, the uncertainty of what he really thinks, and the endless angst of waiting for messages or phone calls. The first flames, infatuations, are deceptive, you're adamant that the person is so perfect when you've only known them for a few days. How hilarious. (It's ok, I'm mocking myself too.)

Familiarity changes relationships - from sweet words to hurtful arguments, admiration to contempt. Fine, let's not be cynical, there are good changes too. The rollercoaster ride of romance turns into a valuable friendship, someone with a deep understanding of your thoughts, feelings, tone and moods.

A parallel to my relationship to God. The first time I started understanding the words of the Bible, saw depth in the layers of meaning, listened to God's words spoken and realised how true! how relevant to everyday life! how wise! - do you know, that was as refreshing, as fascinating as the start of a new relationship. Once in awhile I really saw God's words as his "love letter" to us. The first experiences of God's presence in times of turmoil, opening my eyes to God's grace when I've sinned, experiencing changes in my character that even my family were surprised to see - that left such a deep, moving impression on my spirit.

Yet now, I'm finding the enthusiasm harder to come by. Hate to say it (because it sounds disgustingly arrogant) but sometimes I read and think, well I've only read about the Christmas story, the account of the crucifixion, the letter to the to the Corinthian church like a million zillion times. What can I possibly learn. Then, when I think about which book of the Bible to spend my reading time on I sometimes can't help think - if only there were new books in the Bible I haven't read before, that would be so much more exciting.

I've always loved church and fellowship, and couldn't understand why some Christians avoid it when loving, learning, and serving together with fellow believers is clearly how God wants his family to live. And not only that, meaningful fellowship is such a blessing. Yet this week I thought, I am so tired I don't want to go to church. Why do I have to go. These months I often have problems listening with my heart in sermons because I sigh and think I know this passage well, I've heard the concepts and teachings before. (But yes, as long as I haven't put everything perfectly into practice, I would do well to listen attentively.) Then when I went to fellowship the other day prayer made me groan inside "oh no, why is this so long, boring and repetitive."

What did Jesus say to churches who endured life threatening persecution but lost their "first love"?

You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. - Revelations 2:3-4

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! - Revelations 3:15

But I know (or doubt sometimes, but I still believe more than I doubt) you are God, you are real, your words have power. I know you give me purpose, joy, mental stability. It troubles me deeply to be lethargic towards something that is my passion, but enthusiastic or not I will try to honour my commitment to you, seeking you as you have sought me.

"We shouldn't expect a relationship with God to remain on a constant plane all the time. Not long ago I celebrated my sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. Believe me, when you've been married that long, you don't stay on a plane of ecstasy all the time. Romance starts as a blazing bonfire - you know, 'You light up my life.' After a few decades it settles into something more like a heap of glowing coals. Sure, some of the heat dissipates, but coals are good, too; you can roast marshmallows, or warm your feet. A different level of companionship opens up." - Vernon, in Prayer by Philip Yancy

Indeed, in front of the fireplace is a good place to start contemplating about the changing flames in a relationship.

Clinical school

I started thinking about my choice of clinical school during the start of exam prep this time. Every clinical school gives similar but different teaching, different timetables and schedules. We hear of the greater competition in metro hospitals, more tutorials, more assessment preparation, giving their students obvious clues as to what the exam topics are. Then looking around our own group of students in rural, everyone is relatively relaxed, lazy at times. And I was pondering whether we're missing out, whether rural clinical school was a good thing for my learning. People often ask me whether B was my first choice, and why would I want to live in a "small country town" (it's not that small). Well, throughout this past week, I was reminded of some of the reasons that I chose come to RCS.

Studying with other people doing the same thing is fun. There was always someone ready to practice history taking and physical exam during the study break. Asking each other questions and talking med throughout the day after day, I realised I could remember things that I wouldn't be able to remember by staring and yawning at a textbook. Then during our written exam we were given lollies, water, pencils and an eraser. And in the OSCE we didn't wait a particularly long time because there were only fifteen students in our year here altogether versus say, over fifty students. Then there were those shared dinners, an outing to the playground and lake the day before exams, a fun game of "Mr Squiggle" on the morning of our OSCE, and classmates to tell you "don't stress you just need to get an average sort of mark, you just want to be a GP." Haha okay, I feel great now. This exam period was the most fun one I've had at uni, partly because it's weighted lightly and largely because of the good company.

I never got to know many classmates well, and made less than a handful of people who I would call friends in the first two and a half years of university. I found it difficult how everyone was coming and going, and lived all over M. So that was one reason for RCS, to live with and get to know a few fellow med students better. And it has been a joy to study, live, hang out with the people here (except the days when I'm grumpy or people are particularly annoying). And I love my group.

And I remember mum saying, maybe you'll like rural because it'll be more like living in D. That's been surprisingly true too. Yesterday I was in M and just realised how noisy the CBD is, how did I ever fall asleep living next to the tram line, hospital (with ambulances) and fire station? Then the traffic jams looked horrible. Then I thought smaller places are much nicer places to live, it's quiet and everyone is accessible within 10 minutes with a car. I do miss my night strolls through M though. I like the shops here because it reminds me of the main shopping centre in D. I love my church here too.

Half a year ago, I had no idea what we would do in clinical school. What do you mean you just talk to patients?? Then the students in the years above us said that they prefer clinicals over preclinicals because you "see real patients", "it's more relevant" and "it's more hands on". And because nearly everyone I talked to said that, I was determined not to like clinical school for the same reasons as everyone else haha.

But I enjoyed this semester - I enjoyed the study content, the small-ish hospital where everyone looks familiar, the place I live and the people around me. I was happy most of the time. Maybe because of these things I'm taking a greater interest in reading and learning med, in learning to be a doctor. I'm glad to have chosen B.

I'm thankful to God for leading me, and helping me to make decisions at each step of this course (and beyond). I believe God was with me during that year in S - teaching me to accept times of solitude, helping me finish the research project and report quite completely although there was a lack of good supervision, helping me to find a lovely host family, preparing for these years with a good med student fellowship, giving lots of opportunities to share God's love with those around me, and two trips across the seas to my hometown, to get to know my extended family better. Who can say for sure where and how God's hand were on these things, but I know having a relationship with him aligns my thoughts, my heart, my purpose with his. And God does act.

I think after a few more month, on hindsight, I will see the plans you have for me here more clearly too.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28

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