It was my home for one year when I did my fellowship in dermatopathology at the Barnes Hospital in Washington University. My mentors and professors were world leaders in the field and many wrote the textbooks I used for my much of my pathology residency training. I soaked in every moment, practically living in the hospital. Without a doubt, it remains my finest professional experience. It had to be; I needed these activities to distract my attention from living in St. Louis, the city.
I was elated when I was offered the fellowship but for a brief moment, I hesitated in accepting the offer, wondering whether I should take a chance or wait for the possibility of a fellowship in California. But I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime and it didn’t take much reflection to conclude, “It’s only for a year!”
It was only a year of cicadas, tornadoes, sleet, and the worst flooding in the history of the United States. The weather was miserable-oppressively sultry summers and bitterly cold winters. Everyone yearned for those few weeks of lovely weather in the spring and the fall, the few weeks that I was accustomed to living every day of the year in Southern California. It was only a year filled with racial tension, with insults and slurs directed toward me.
Perhaps if I stayed longer, I would have grown to love the city, as millions of others do, but I have never returned to the city that I left nearly 25 years ago. It was only a year, but I remained solely focused upon my professional career and abandoned any hope of searching for the positive upside of the city. I focused only upon the present and did not look ahead to changes God was making in my character. Now, many years later, I can look back to that year with great fondness and appreciation to God for the excellent foundation it provided for my life.
…He had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.
Psalms 105:17-19 (ESV)
Many of the great saints of the Bible endured difficult living circumstances for a brief period of time, only to later be blessed by God. Joseph was wrongly imprisoned for several years in Egypt. Undoubtedly there were many bleak days for Joseph, but he never wavered in his faith. What was the result?
The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free; he made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions, to bind his princes at his pleasure and to teach his elders wisdom.
Psalms 105:20-22 (ESV)
God was testing Joseph during this difficult period of his life. He was preparing him for the role of leader of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. It was his preparations for God’s expectations.
Since that year, there have been many St. Louis’ in my life; betrayals by former colleagues, illnesses in the family, the passing of family and friends. God uses these experiences to test and refine me. In spite of the passing of many years and presumed accumulated wisdom, when these events occur, I still sometimes wallow in self-pity and grouse about my circumstances instead of looking upward and outward to God, in earnest expectation that He is preparing me for the next phase of my life. I pray to God to increase my faith so, like Joseph and the great saints of the Bible, in my next season of trial, I will stand firm and trust in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.