Infamous days dot the landscape of American history. Gettysburg. Pearl Harbor. 9/11. These were days when our great nation went down for the count. Atrocious, dreadful, unforgivable days, where it seemed like the essence of who we were as a country might be lost forever.
Infamous days hurt.
They raise puzzling questions.
They leave us scarred and frustrated.
They are filled with fear.
They also serve as turning points. They are the proverbial fork-in-the-road of life. In these moments, do we choose to remain on the canvas, bloodied and bruised? Or do we rise to our feet, receive the standing eight count, and continue to press on?
Infamous days also punctuate the landscape of our personal life. A family tragedy. Complete financial ruin. Words spoken that destroy a friendship. They may not be as grandiose in scale as a national event, but they still raise hurts and questions and fears.
When I was in graduate school, through sheer laziness and inattentiveness, I missed the deadline to apply for my internship.
When I realized it three days later, I sped off to the department offices to plead for my schooling existence. I thought surely these kind and reasonable people would fudge on the deadline a bit for this 24-yr. old kid that just goofed.
They wouldn’t budge. Not an inch.
I returned home to my wife and our little apartment devastated and angry. Who do these people think they are to determine my fate? Are they unaware they have cost me another year and a half of grad school? I can’t delay my program that long. What am I going to do? This is forcing me to take part-time classes for a year until I can apply for the internship again. Ridiculous.
My anger began to subside in the days that followed as I began to listen to an inner voice inside of me. It began by reminding me that all this was actually my fault. That was a tough one to admit. I also heard it say that God must have some reason for this. I couldn’t see what that might be but OK, I get it, and believe it.
It also challenged me to not give up, even though the road ahead would be difficult.
That was the path I chose.
Attending school part-time the following year allowed me the opportunity to secure a part-time job at a local sporting goods store. That position brought in some extra income, which is always a positive thing. It also taught me about the retail business, and how to interact with people.
We joined a church we otherwise might not have and I made many new friends. Those connections led to a full-time job as a teacher the following year. My wife and I bought our first house.
Fifteen years later, we are still part of that same church and I still teach at the same school, which my kids also now attend.
I often wonder if God allowed me to be blind to the internship deadline. I don’t know. I had no intentions of staying in Georgia post-grad school. If I had done what I was supposed to do, I would have graduated a year earlier, missed out on the friendships and connections and most likely returned home to Ohio where most of my family and friends still lived. Obviously God had a different plan and it took me living through an infamous personal day to be ultimately pushed in His direction.
Infamous days hurt and are deeply frustrating. But they don’t have to be life show-stoppers. God still has a plan for us. We need to press on and live it out.
How have you responded to a day you wished never happened? Are you still mired in the swamp of paralyzing emotions?