Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Pinball Thanksgiving

WHEN LIFE BEGINS to feel like a big game of pinball, with me the steel sphere getting bounced around from one thing to the next, I like to remind myself God is the One with His hands on the flippers.

I don’t pretend to understand how it all works. I don’t believe He wrote this big script for us all before the beginning of time and now we’re all just going through the predetermined motions. But I do believe that somehow things end up working out the way they are supposed to be.

If there’s a laundry list of ways of looking at why things turn out as they do, from determinism to fatalism, then I guess you could call my view detergentism: it will all come out in the wash.

However, I have realized something as the years have accumulated and I get a better rear-view mirror perspective. Namely, that while “yes” choices are important in getting us where we are—and probably more likely to be remembered—the “no” turns are equally significant.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are four things I am grateful for having not come to pass.

The trip my dad didn’t get to make. Okay, so not technically mine, but bear with me. As a young sports reporter on one of England’s top regional newspapers, my father was selected for a dream assignment: travel with the local soccer team to Germany–at a time when flying was still pretty much for the privileged few–to cover a big game.

Unfortunately, his passport wasn’t valid, so he missed the trip, just two months after I was born. The return flight from Munich crashed on takeoff on Feb. 6, 1958—killing several of Manchester United’s famous “Busby Babes” players and seven journalists traveling with them. Who knows how my life might have turned out if he had been among the fatalities?

The job I didn’t get. Having covered news for weekly newspapers for several years, I wanted something a bit more glamorous. Writing links for television seemed a way into an exciting new field. But the sophistication I could fake in my application cover letter couldn’t get me through an in-person interview in which my early-20s immaturity emerged.

So I stuck with news, finding much more satisfaction in telling stories about people and situations that I believe have mattered than I suspect I ever would have in cranking out slick segues for announcers.

The prayer that wasn’t answered. At the time it was the single biggest thing I had ever wanted. I prayed it more times than I can remember, waking each morning in the hope that this might be the day in which I finally saw it answered.

Gradually, over time, I came to realize I had to let it go. Laying it down was a slow, painful process, leaving me in a sort of vacuum. Many months later, with that door finally and firmly closed, another one opened unexpectedly. It led into a world so much better than I could have imagined—proof positive that we don’t always know what’s best for us.

The dog we didn’t keep. As a non-animal person, when I agreed to having a pet, I told Marcia a little lapdog would be a good way to start. The little two-pound ball of white fluff we picked up and quickly named Swiffer was adorable, until we got her home. Then she turned into some kind of demon, yapping constantly if you were not within her eyesight. In two days she broke out of two metal crates, chewing her way through a giant bulldog clip en route.

We managed to rehome her—even at a profit, thanks to Marcia’s fine bargaining skills. And a couple or so weeks later we ended up with an additional 93 pounds of dog who changed my life. Without Swiffer’s departure, there never would have been Woodley.

How about you? As you think about the things you are grateful for this Thanksgiving, what might be one or two you’re now so glad didn’t turn out the way you once wished?

Photo credit: Snap Man via Foter.com/CC BY-NC

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