I’ve talked about the mess that my life was in my 20’s in general terms. Most of us can relate to the idea that we thought we knew what was best, or right for the moment, or at least acknowledge some of our decisions were flat out not bound in any thought of consequence or benefit.
But, I can’t ignore what seemingly is this orchestration of elements in my life that all conspire to create a very blessed life. Not problem free, but full of blessings and grace and mercy.
Think of an Y. The top of the Y are two lines, separate but moving in the same direction. (My Navy training calls this CBDR – constant bearing, decreasing range. Hence, a recipe for collision!) That is my life and my husband’s life before we met.
My life? The short of it is this: A kid from the Chicago burbs moves to the wildness of the Ozarks in the 70’s. Goes off to college (only after she turns down an opportunity to go to Wellesley -crazy, I know.). Decides to become a Social Worker. Only what she wants to do isn’t even a thing yet. So, signs up to become an officer in the Navy. Along the way, there is a failed marriage, a miscarriage and a lot of casting about more characterized by that country song, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”. Loses her aunt – a critical person in her life and then her dad. Two crushing blows. Then, she gets an offer she can’t refuse. Want a path to Captain? Hell, yes! I’m in. Now tell me what I have to do.
Ben’s life: A charmed life as a judge’s son in a small town in central Michigan. Can’t get away with much so you toe the line. Goes to MSU – go Sparty! Becomes an engineer/Air Force Pilot and has a near miss with the Vietnam War. His own failed marriage and becomes the father to a beautiful daughter. Loses his mother to cancer, but goes to California and swears he doesn’t want to go to Thule on remote. But, for whatever reason, as he is about to tell his superior he doesn’t want the assignment, he says, “Send me.” He will tell you today, that he just can’t get his arms around that moment. He can’t figure out what made him say just the opposite of what he wanted.
Both of those stories end up in a school for Space Surveillance in Denver, Colorado. On day ONE, Caesar (I never remember names, so you know this is significant!) was insistent that I meet Ben. At one of our breaks, Caesar introduced me. You have to know that I had just broken up with someone else about a week before. It was a cap on an already terrible track record of meeting men and making awful choices. I took one look at Ben in his uniform, stuck my finger nice and hard into his flight wings and say “Oh, hell no. Not another fly boy.” And, walked away.
That was Monday. By Friday, we were eating hor d’oeurves and dancing cheek to check.
Don’t tell me that this is a coincidence. And, don’t tell me this was hormones either because I was ready never to date again. Ready to completely focus on my career, and if you know me, once I decide on something there is not much that will change that trajectory.
I couldn’t get away from this. That was October 1984. By Thanksgiving, my Michigan suitor drove all the way down to the Chicago area to convince me to wait for him. Thule was a remote assignment – just one year. I needed time to get my head together. I told him, “Sure. I’m not really interested in dating at this point, but I’ll listen.”
And he won me over, one audio tape at a time. We got engaged. I left my “track to Captain” and came to Indiana without any assurance whatsoever that this would work. We married, had babies and then I began my teaching career.
Explain this. Do you really think it’s coincidence?
Don’t tell me it was coincidence that our paths would come together in incredibly impossible ways and that we would stick like glue from that point on – even beyond the odds.
Explain how it is that I understand emotional abuse at the hands of an alcoholic parent? Explain how adding to this failure upon failure in my 20’s? Explain how a girl who someone thought was destined for an Eastern Seaboard Prep School is suddenly in the Navy? Explain how this wannabe Social Worker ends up bulling her way into an Alternative School to serve up 17 years of service?
Explain how that 30 years into a marriage that I’m explaining to a pastor that it was BEN that brought me back into the fold when he says, “Do you know he says the same thing about you?”
It was a stunning moment of revelation for me.
Can you see the not-so-coincidence of the pattern, yet?
My early years, the mess of a marriage, my time in the Navy (to grow up and develop some skills), meeting Ben and growing equally yoked together all become the places I draw from to teach. I have always had a heart for young people that didn’t have advocates or resources. Those so-called broken experiences and missed opportunities laid the groundwork for me to “put into” young lives in every class since 1994.
So, how does all this factor into some life lesson you can draw from? No, you aren’t going to pull some lesson from my life and say, “I should do it just like she did.” Please. Don’t do that.
What I want you to see is that the messes I made were of value. Value to me and value to the God I serve. Somehow, He was able to pick up my sad pieces and use the lessons in all of that to create this life of worth.
What mess did He pick up for you? How have those circumstances of yours been woven into this intricate design of you-niqueness?
For so long, I just felt that God saved me from something base and wild. Maybe even corrupt and so much more than broken. I couldn’t see the value until I’d gotten some distance on the picture. I couldn’t see the value I brought to others until a little…no, a LOT of time had passed.
What have you missed in your big picture that is valuable? Maybe you’re still in your prime. Maybe you don’t have enough distance on your life to see the value in all your struggles. But, just maybe, if you were to think about these different, seeming disparate events, as parts of a whole what would the whole look like? How would it be of value?
Are you still shaking your head and telling me, “But, you don’t know how bad it is.”?
You are valued and you have value. Straighten up. Push your shoulders back. Pull your head up.
Somebody needs you and your sad, sordid history. Maybe today.