GOD WRITES STRAIGHT WITH CROOKED LINES
Sometimes the choice is yours.
by Susan Craig
There is an old Portuguese proverb that says God writes straight with crooked lines.
It is an interesting truth. The paths we take in life lead to where we are meant to go, regardless of the detours along the road. In sailing, a similar process occurs. It’s called 'tacking' and allows a boat to make progress even when the wind is against it.
As a person of faith, I have seen this in my own life many times.
When I was in eighth grade, my plan was to become a beautiful and brilliant scientist. At that time women in science were rare. But there was always at least one in the science fiction movies playing that I would loved. That character was often beautiful -- though usually wearing heavy-framed glasses (which gave the hero something to remove before he kissed her).
In high school, reality struck, and I decided to become a science teacher instead. How much that had to do with my love of science and how much with the fact that two of my best friends were going to teacher’s college as well, I could not at this time say. Either way, it didn't matter. On to college, and the refinement of my ambition to teach.
I developed a vision of a school where I, either alone or as part of a small, select team, would teach science to the same students from kindergarten all the way through eighth grade. I envisioned a school serving the brightest and best, and knew I would need more than the normal preparation of a grade school teacher to be qualified. So I took the courses for certification to teach high school science. Then I got married, got pregnant, and graduated—in that order. I did teach science at a small parochial school on the south side of Chicago until the baby was born. Then I was a full time mom until, four years later, we moved to a suburb of Los Angeles and I began teaching again—this time departmentalized science and math at a school in Inglewood, CA. Middle grades.
After a couple years we decided I should be a stay at home mom again—we had a strong-willed two-and-a-half-year-old son, and his grandma wasn’t able to keep up with him and give him the structure (discipline) he so clearly needed. This was at a time when discipline was not a bad word, no one thought a spanking would irreparably damage a child, and it was the responsibility of a good parent to be the one in control. But I digress. Shortly after the decision to stay home had been made, I learned I was pregnant with our third child. It was then that life took a major turn off the track we had envisioned. Joanna was born severely developmentally disabled. We chose to bring her home to love and raise—against the advice of doctors who recommended institutionalization. (At the time, bringing a Down syndrome child home had only recently become accepted practice.)
So, instead of teaching the brightest, I found myself involved in teaching a child the experts said could not learn. And I learned more then about education than I ever learned in college. Joanna died when she was seven, at more than five times the lifespan we’d been told to expect.
I entered graduate school and earned a Ph. D. in neurobiology. My intent was to do research, and I did—in the area of Alzheimer’s disease—for about ten years. Then I found myself once again at a crossroads. I had a job offer from a prestigious school in Boston, and a family happily rooted in Houston. I chose to turn the position down, and wound up teaching science again, this time at the high school level. Six years later, I was contacted by a small university regarding a full time position teaching biology, which is what I do today. I train the physicians, the researchers, and the teachers of tomorrow. It is wonderful, important and soul-satisfying work.
But what is of greatest interest to me, is that every path and turn in my journey has, in some way, prepared me for the role I have now. God does, indeed, write straight with crooked lines. And it isn’t only my life that shows it.
Moses was a prince, then a herdsman, then the leader of the Israelite nation.
David was a shepherd, then a soldier, than an outlaw, then the king.
Ben Carson was, as he tells it, the class clown, then a dangerous delinquent, then an innovative and world-renowned neurosurgeon.
Examples are legion. You probably know people yourself who have wound up in a career, or situation that suits them completely, although it is not where they originally intended to go.
Am I trying to say we should all blunder along, without plans or goals, and everything will turn out fine? Hardly. Edgar Lee Masters, in his Spoon River Anthology, once described such a life. The dead soul speaking here is George Gray:
I HAVE studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.
I would never advocate sitting on your hands doing nothing, planning nothing. But I do say, when life throws you a curve, stay loose, open to new opportunities, willing to change direction if need be.
Don’t worry if it looks like you are not progressing in quite the direction you planned. Sometimes deviations from your route call for mid-course correction, but many times you are simply on a journey toward a new destination, one still over the horizon, that will become clear in time. That’s where I am right now. Is it where you are?
Then let us both sail on with courage and faith to meet the future.
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