In 2005, I had just been called as a bishop of our ward and started a demanding, new job. At this same time, my program at NYU got a new director. He made it clear that if I didn’t have my dissertation finished in a year, he would kick me out. I had one year to get my proposal approved, a committee in place, go through the human subject approval process—and then to do the research and writing.
Somehow, I had to do all that on top of my time-intensive job and the responsibilities of my new calling.
That description sounds a little bland and tame. I don’t know how to capture the gut-twisting, cold-sweat, stay-awake-at-night worry that I felt.
This task was totally and completely impossible. The stress grew exponentially. One night I was reduced to complete hopelessness and near an internal breaking point. My wife, Meredith, cued our copy of Prince of Egypt to the song, “When You Believe.”
It’s a beautiful song and the moment in the film where it occurs is quite powerful. The main refrain is “there can be miracles when you believe.”
This gave me some comfort and I went back to plugging away. The song sort of became our theme song, during an impossible time.
I worked as diligently as I could during the school year, but got little done. Finally, summer came and school let out. I worked on the research every minute I could. This required hours and hours and hours of interviews, transcribing, analyzing and organizing data. I worked all day every day. Mere drove everywhere so I could grab precious minutes of work in the passenger seat.
By the end of the summer, I was done with my research and ready to start writing. My professor was pressuring me to be finished the Monday after Labor Day.
At the height of this rush to finish, Mere’s grandmother died. We felt like it was important for her to attend the funeral. So she left town for four or five days.
Zach, our youngest (at the time) was not in school yet, so I was responsible for taking care of him as well as the three older kids.
Zach watched a lot of DVDs that week. He was incredible and non-demanding. Somehow, I managed to get the work done by the deadline. There was a lot more work after that, rewriting and editing, but that was a key milestone and eventually, I graduated.
Fast forward to last spring. Meredith went out of town to take care of sick parents. I took some time off work, and stayed home to take care of our 3 year old. Given these circumstances, I couldn’t help but think back to the last time Mere left and I was in charge of the house and kids. But this time I was comfortable in my job and calling and I had no dissertation to do. It seemed like a piece of cake in comparison.
During this time, I went to our oldest son’s band concert. The last number was performed by the choir with the band accompanying them. It was, “When You Believe” from “Prince of Egypt.”
As I stood there hearing that beautiful song, this all rose to my mind, and then sunk deeply into my heart. I got chills and a little teary as I realized that there really had been a miracle.
“In this time of fear
When prayer so often proves in vain
Hope seems like the summer birds
Too swiftly flown away
And now I am standing here
My heart's so full I can't explain
Seeking faith and speaking words
I never thought I'd say
“There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill
Who know what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe”