I don’t presume to know where you are with your hopes and fears regarding finding out where you’ll be headed for residency...what I do know is that the match process took me down a road I wouldn’t have chosen, and it was one of the more difficult periods of time in my life. It’s not hard to share though, because on this side of it God has allowed me to see at least some His purposes, and now even if I could, I wouldn’t change a thing. I decided to write this all out, just in case God might use any of it to encourage people who are going through the match now. If you want to skip the story, there are some song lyrics at the end that were really meaningful to me as well :-) The story is written from my perspective as a Christian, which is honestly the only way I know to tell it. I’m not sure how it would’ve turned out if I had not had faith that there was a bigger plan that I couldn’t see...so I’m really thankful that I did and do. God is good.
I went into the residency application process with a firm belief in God’s sovereignty and control, and I’m thankful for that as it carried me through the months leading up to Match Day without an overwhelming amount of worry or anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I did worry and have scary “what if” thoughts, but for the most part I trusted God with where we ended up (or at least I thought I did!). My husband and I made decisions on the order of his rank list together, and he considered me and my wishes a great deal, choosing not to even apply to many programs that would have been good for his career but hard for me. In his school’s very public Match Day ceremony where everyone stood on stage, opened their letters and announced where they were going, there were so many overjoyed people who were immediately in celebration mode upon seeing where they matched. I sat there in anticipation of it being my turn to be the excited, celebratory one. I had subconsciously convinced myself that our first choice must have been God’s plan, and I wasn’t spiritually or emotionally prepared for some of the other possible outcomes.
My husband went on stage and read aloud where he would be going, which was our second choice (but if I had had my own personal rank list, would’ve been further down the list). I still remember the look of surprise and quick flash of excitement on his face when he read it, and then the way his expression fell when he saw my reaction. I was devastated. That sounds dramatic, but it really is the word for how I felt. I was immensely disappointed and was almost immediately in a place of despair about what my life would be like in this place that I really didn’t want to go. For the rest of the match ceremony, I was holding back sobs and trying to act as happy for him as I could, and he was feeling so much sadness for how I felt and trying to suppress his own excitement in going to a program he had much respect for.
In retrospect, I tried to think back to our rank list conversations and remember how that program came to be our second choice. And I tried to figure out how on earth I went through the process not being more prepared for getting our second choice. I would’ve been fine with some of the programs further down the list, but for some reason, I was not prepared for this one. The only thing I can figure is that God used this to stretch my faith to places I didn’t think it could go, which was great preparation for the upcoming challenges of residency.I cried a lot for the first few days, less as the weeks went on, and by the time we actually moved, God had lovingly given me real peace with where we were headed and even a bit of excitement. I might have reached that point sooner if I had been more honest with God about my feelings after the match. I don’t remember feeling angry at God, but I did feel very forgotten by God. This program seemed good for my husband, but what about me? Did that not matter? It took me several weeks to finally break down and admit those feelings, but when I did it was significant. It opened me up to allow God to heal me and give me hope, and that’s what He did. Some people might say that we are ultimately subject to the residency matching algorithms and that God can work good from that no matter where we end up being matched. But I firmly believe that we are not ultimately subject to the residency match process any more than we are subject to the fate written on the piece of paper inside a fortune cookie. Yes, this process is big and intimidating, but God is bigger. The same thing we’re trying to teach our two year old is what God is constantly teaching me! Through all the moving parts of how you did on your boards, where you apply, where you are offered interviews, how charismatic you were during your interviews, and how you and the programs all rank each other...God is working to put us exactly where He wants us. We are not subject to the system, the system is subject to Him.
Sometime in the last couple of years, I was encouraged about God’s sovereignty by the story of Mordecai in the book of Esther. Mordecai overheard a scheme to kill the king and reported it to the officials, which in turned saved the king’s life (Esther 2:21-23). His act of reporting this scheme was recorded in the book of chronicles, but no other accolades are mentioned. Later, an official named Haman grew to hate Mordecai because he did not bow down to him. Among other events, Haman planned to have Mordecai hanged for this supposed disrespect, and intended to go to the king to have this plan authorized the next day. All in God’s plan to save Mordecai’s life--God caused the king to not be able to sleep that night, and in his sleeplessness he decided to read through the book of chronicles. In reading this book, he providentially came across Mordecai’s reporting of the plot to kill the king. In turn when Haman approached the king the next day to propose his plot to hang Mordecai, the king instead ordered Haman to give Mordecai high honors for his deed from the past that had saved the king’s life. All of that to say--if God wanted Mordecai to live, He could’ve accomplished it a thousand ways, including just striking Haman dead. But instead, He worked through the intricacies of the situation as it was...keeping the king awake all night, causing him to rummage through an old record book and find that particular record on that particular night. Things like this are all through scripture, and it encourages me to think of God working this way...entering into the way things work and directing the outcomes for His glory. No matter what happens, there is such security for me in that. For many weeks after the match, I daydreamed about if Match Day had gone differently and would’ve jumped at the chance to change programs if that had been an option. But within a few months, I stopped daydreaming and wishing things had gone differently. Even though I couldn’t yet see the reasons we were here, my faith had grown and helped me to not only trust God but also find real contentment in what He was doing with my life.
Now here I am, five years into this place that I never would’ve picked. And very honestly, if I could go back knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t change anything. God taught me so much and brought me closer to Him through this, and that is worth all of it. I don’t even think about whether life would’ve been better at my first choice--I honestly don’t care. I can see now that God wanted us here, so this is where I want to be. I can see how He is using this program to prepare us for a future in medical missions that we have been hoping for, and we’ve experienced rich community here in great churches. I want this life where God took me (albeit kicking and screaming), not where I would’ve picked.
So if you get your first choice on Match Day, praise God! And if you don’t, be honest about how you feel to God but still praise Him. Either way, you will be where He wanted you all along, and He can see so much more of what we need than we can. Below are excerpts from songs that I absolutely wore out listening to leading up to and after the match. I just needed to remind myself of truth all the time, because I couldn’t keep that perspective on my own.
I do not ask to see the way my feet will have to tread; But only that my soul may feed upon the living Bread. 'Tis better far that I should walk by faith close to His side; I may not know the way I go, but oh, I know my Guide.
(His Love Can Never Fail)
His call we obey, like Abram of old, not knowing our way, but faith makes us bold; For though we are strangers we have a good Guide, and trust in all dangers, the Lord will provide When Satan appears to stop up our path, and fill us with fears, we triumph by faith; He cannot take from us, though oft he has tried, this heart-cheering promise, the Lord will provide
(The Lord Will Provide)
Whate'er Thy providence denies, I calmly would resign; For Thou art just, and good, and wise, O bend my will to Thine. Whate'er Thy sacred will ordains, O give me strength to bear; And let me know my Father reigns, and trust His tender care.
(My God, My Father, Blissful Name)
Well, that’s the end of my long-winded story--thanks for listening! God is good and faithful, praying that you can find hope in that no matter what Match Day