As I think back over my life, I see so many twists and turns that often made no sense at all at the time- yet now I can see the hand of God in most - not all - but most of the things I encountered.
I started college in the Fall of 1972. Among my circle of friends, we only had one car between all of us and none of us belonged to the same church so we took turns going to each other's services on Sundays. For that reason, I was able to go to the Baptist, Church of Christ, Assembly of God, and Catholic churches in our area. I think this worried my mom a bit but I believe it proved to be a good background for me spiritually and I remember with great fondness all of us piling into one car (seat belts weren't always in use as I recall - but it wasn't necessary because we were wedged in so tightly that no one would have been thrown from the car in an accident so it was all good...) - at any rate, we'd all squeeze into one vehicle and head for the church of choice for that particular Sunday. I will always be grateful for those times.
Politically, the Vietnam War was a hot issue among students and I remember standing in the lobby of my dorm, watching the televised announcement that the war was ending. (No, there was no t.v. in our dorm room. But that was okay, too b/c the girls across the hall had two sets and ran them full blast most evenings -on different stations simultaneously - so we weren't deprived electronically. This was obviously before cell phones, ipods, and whatever...). I was so immersed in studies, my job, and campus life that President Nixon's announcement about the war was the only thing he did that I really took in during my college years. I do remember a Professor chewing us out once because we didn't know what Watergate was but, honestly, it took a good-looking Robert Redford and the film, All The President's Men, to get me interested in one of the biggest political scandals of our history. AFter seeing the film, I began to read every book that I could find on the subject - most of which I've long since forgotten. However, JOhn Dean and Chuck Colson were names that stood out to me - John Dean because I thought he was a hero and Colson because I thought he was a bit crazy. Later, Colson's book, Life Sentence would radically impact my life in a positive way. And I would find out that John Dean's book, Blind Ambition, which I read more than once, was totally ghost-written - I'm not even sure that he ever read it. (It's still a great book on Watergate but I guess I learned through Nixon's dishonesty and the way my opinions of these two writers radically changed that things aren't always what they appear to be on the surface)
I remember the Yom Kippur War in 1973, mainly because word spread around campus (like wildfire) that no civilization had remained strong for more than 200 years (clearly whoever started that rumor knew nothing about the Roman Empire and those of us who were idiot enough to believe it... also knew nothing about the Roman Empire.. not to mention a little civilization called ancient Egypt.) At any rate, since we were approaching our 200th anniversary in the U.S., it was being spread around that Armageddon was going to happen before 1976 and of course, we'd all be destroyed. (Maybe this is one reason I don't get too worked up about things like 2012...) At any rate, this war impacted my life significantly - instead of playing Spades into the wee hours of the night as we usually did, my friends and I would gather in someone's dorm room (dorms were definitely NOT co-ed back then and you had to sign in and out when you were gone overnight) and we would search frantically through our Bibles trying to find out how the end of the world was going to pan out. The war didn't last long and we returned to our card games in pretty short fashion but the whole thing made me stop and think - how solid is the ground beneath my feet when the Middle East obviously can blow at any time and I knew for a fact that we were sending planes from Jacksonville Air Force Base to the Middle East. I think it was good for me to begin to sort out what was lasting and what wasn't.
I also remember the oil shortages after the Yom Kippur War and the problems with inflation. But again, my focus on world events was pretty narrow. I remember that it was deemed unpatriotic to waste precious energy by putting up Christmas lights - a huge bummer for me! (So glad we have LED's now!!!) And the other thing I remember is how the speed limit was lowered to 55 mph on the freeway to save energy, which we thought was ridiculous!! (But the police didn't...)
I also remember approaching graduation with what I now realize was a lot of hubris matched only by my ignorance of the real world. When one of my friends said that she dreaded graduation because she figured college was our last ivory tower, I had no clue what she meant. The author, Dee Brown, spoke at our graduation and encouraged us by sharing how he, as a young college graduate, had found work in spite of the lingering effects of the Great Depression.
But try as I might, I could not find a teaching position - the field was terribly overcrowded. One principal told me that he had a hundred applicants for every vacant teaching position and I think that was pretty common in the larger school districts back then. Fortunately, Hendrix offered me a job in their library so I was able to go straight from college into a job that I enjoyed. Unfortunately, the job didn't pay well.
And as luck would have it, shortly after I went to work for Hendrix, I did get a job offer from a Little Rock school because a teacher had quit suddenly, school was in session, and they had to have a replacement ASAP. I was really tempted to accept the offer but since I had signed a contract with Hendrix, I turned Little Rock School District down. This also meant turning down a significantly larger salary and I was single at the time, just barely making it on a shoe-string budget.
AFter I turned the job offer down, I had more than one person tell me that I had been stupid, that people break contracts all the time. I honestly didn't know that and came to feel that I had really messed up. But I can't say how many times, after I got a teaching job in Benton and after I saw the problems that the L.R. schools were going through over the ensuing years, that I blessed the day I said, "No, I"m sorry but I'm already under contract to another employer." In short, I came to realize that honoring your commitments is a good thing even if it meant that I struggled financially for another three years at the library before getting my first teaching job. Coincidentally one of the reasons that the principal at the Junior High hired me was because I had given him a sample lesson I had taught ... in Sunday School. It was the only lesson I had to show him since I had never taught in public schools (aside from practice teaching where I spent most of my time filing a backlog of papers that my supervising teacher had:) So, although my two years at the Junior HIgh were a fiasco in my opinion and also added the phrase "baptism by fire" to my vocabulary, even in this event I can now see how God moved me into a teaching position when the odds were against it.
Dwelling on the past is not always a good thing but I think if I had reflected on these things more often, I wouldn't have questioned my decision to go into teaching as much - like as in every I"m-going-to-pull-my-hair-out-if-one-more-kid-asks-me-a-stupid-question day:(
Sometimes it's just good to remember the past because, for a believer, the past holds the key to the future: in spite of all life's twists and turns, if we follow the Shepherd -even half-heartedly and in ignorance as I have done so many times - He has promised to go before us, to teach us, and also to bring good out of bad. (John 10:4, Romans 8:28) HOnestly, the only good thing I can remember from my first two years of teaching is the time I got the flu and missed a week of school. It was glorious and I'm not kidding. I also remember my Sunday School teacher telling me how he hated his first year of teaching but went on to teach for five more years and loved it and he was sure I would do the same. Even as he was telling me this, I was thinking: there is no way in heck that I will ever stick this out for 5 years... it's impossible.
That was 31 years ago... Sometimes it's necessary to look back and remember the mercies of God. (Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and forget none of HIs benefits...Psalms 103:2.) In retrospect, I can see that my professional career was "birthed" in the midst of war, inflation, political upheaval, job shortages, campus unrest, and my own personal ignorance. Yet somehow, God used it all to shape me and guide me through the labyrinthine pathways of life and I'm grateful.