Recent discussions with my oldest child about impending college applications and vocational choices --- in short, choices which he believes may set the course of the rest of his life --- caused me to muse on the manner in which I selected a college, vocation, and job. In the end, I'm proof that God can take poor choices and still bless you, still in the words of Jeremiah, "give you a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11).
We are visiting colleges, poring over college admissions web pages, and taking the SAT and ACT multiple times in the hopes of making a thoughtful choice. I did no such thing during my junior and senior years of high school. Of course I took the SAT, once, with no advance preparation. I applied to one college. I did not get in. (For some reason I chose the design school, which had standards, of course, that I did not meet.) I changed majors, declaring the relatively sexy sounding computer science as my field of study. I got in. You see, I applied to this one college because my then girlfriend, an extroverted, gregarious, mildly flirty, disco-dancing girl one year older than me, was at college in the same town. I spent my senior year checking up on her, calling, visiting, wondering where she was, and so on. It was pitiful. My selection of a college was driven solely by this concern that I needed to supervise this girl, be where she was, curbing her excesses, keeping an eye out for interlopers, and generally being a nuisance to her social life.
I was accepted in that college. I piled the bulk of my possessions in my 1972 Camaro, moved in an aging dorm room with a high school acquaintance, and started studying computer science and my girlfriend. Around mid-term, she broke up with me, leaving me for a pre-med student. Around the same time, I received three of the dreaded pink slips, informing me that I had two Ds and one F. I was not off to a good start in that college. Two of the bad grades were in Computer Science courses. I begged my Japanese professors to give me a break. They raised my grades to Cs. I finished the term and changed majors. Sociology sounded interesting, whatever that was. I figured it had to be easier than studying computer languages. Besides, there were better looking girls in the liberal arts. I took two girls out to a free college flick, The Nuremberg Trials (how's that for a chic flick?), had a great time sitting there, between them, astonished at my good fortune, and then was roundly dressed down by both of them the next day. I was astonished. I still don't know what I did wrong. It was such a nice evening.
So, here I was. I was in a college that I had made a hormonal and not rational decision about, in a major I knew nothing about and selected for the poorest of reasons, living with a roommate who had odd habits, and all this with no girlfriend, poor grades, and no clue as to where my future lay. None of this is terribly unusual for college students. Yet in hindsight, I think I was right where God wanted me. Three great things happened that year. First, I learned what it was to be in Christian fellowship. I may have been doing poorly academically, but I had been kidnapped by God, surrounded by believing upperclassmen who were always there. Second, I met a loyal friend who I still regularly see 33 years later, and who was there in the midst of my poor choices, offering encouragement and camaraderie. And finally, I met my now wife of 28 years because I happened to be in the wrong college in the wrong major at the right time. And that's just the beginning of how my poor choices were redeemed and made a part of the plan of a sovereign and good God.
All this gives me hope and tells me that no matter what choices my son makes, he'll be fine. Like an errant driver with an insistent GPS, he'll eventually get home, because for the believer, that's where all paths, no matter how circuitous, lead.