A Really Bad Decision Made Good

With my family, graduating from Fuller Seminary with a Doctor of Ministry degree

That day I made the worst and best decision of my life. I still remember standing in my back yard after school. The honey locust and elm trees still wore a few tenacious leaves. But I couldn’t hang on any longer. I had become a follower of Christ during the summer and began that fall semester of my junior year in high school dedicated to making it work. Yet, I was still failing.

“My counselor told me I should just drop out,” I told my mom as we stood in our suburban back yard. “No one believes I’ve changed,” I complained.

Then my mom dropped a bomb shell. “Maybe you should,” she said seriously. “Quit. You’ve got a good job. They’ll take you on full time.”

One day, one desperate decision, two outcomes.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah 1:1-2:22

2 Corinthians 10:1-18

Psalm 52:1-9

Proverbs 22:26-27

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Isaiah 1:1-2:22: God’s people stand on a precipice. The kingdom has split by north and south. Both halves mostly unfaithful to God. The dream of God’s promise to Abraham that they will be a nation blessed to become a blessing has been forgotten by most and is fading for others.

Israel has trusted more in armies and alliances, the faith of their fathers and empty religiosity than in God himself. Now comes the curse. “I will turn my hand against you,” the Lord tells them through Isaiah. In other words, “Let what you put your faith in save you.”

The book of Isaiah, and the rest of the prophets’ writings, is a record of God pleading with his people to trust him and a prediction of what will happen if they don’t. The message for us is to look back at Israel’s poor decisions and learn both about God’s wrath and God’s equally sure and powerful redemptive grace.

2 Corinthians 10:1-18: “The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world,” Paul writes. So, today we see a God-imposed theme between passages written over hundreds of years and by vastly different authors. “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Isaiah and Paul agree. Each time we humans trust in our own efforts, we get human and disappointing results.

Psalm 52:1-9: The psalmist strikes the same chord. Trust in yourself and great wealth and destroying others, and you will eventually falter. Make God your stronghold and trust in his unfailing love and the pain and pleasure of each day will take on deeper, longer–eternal–meaning.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

How could my dropping out of high school simultaneously be the worst and best decision of my life?

Worst: Life has often been a battle since that day. The shadow of feeling a failure has followed me. I have too often regarded myself stupid, doubted my worth, and considered myself a quitter. Just as often others have agreed with those labels. I have had to double back and learn later what God had for me to learn then. And for a long time, especially in dark times, I spent more time looking back in regret than looking forward in hope. I do not blame my mom, or the school. But quitting high school was a painful, abrupt, stupid decision.

Best: Life has been a battle since that day. That’s when I began to understand I was living without a safety net. That day I learned I could not trust myself. Desire and dedication carried me only until I ran out of steam. I didn’t have what it took.

My school also failed me. It specialized in college prep. No one in my family had ever gone to college. Even I couldn’t imagine being the first.

And my mom believed in work more than school. Had to. As a widow working two jobs to provide for me and my siblings, she desperately needed me to work.

There were no government programs–that I knew of–no rich uncles, no bleeding hearts, no easy answers.

There I teetered alone on the tightrope. No net. Sad clown face feeling sorry for myself. For all that, I now believe myself fortunate. Had any of those people or entities rescued me, I believe I would never have inched along the rope toward God’s outstretched hand.

Because of my life situation, I was learning one of the core ideas in the Book of Isaiah:

“Stop trusting in man, who has but breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he.”

Sadly good intentioned safety nets often keep us trusting ourselves and our own systems of survival. The unintended consequences of breaking one another’s falls is that we may never reach out to God. Why should we?

Yet God’s intended consequences when we fall and feel pain may be that we cry out to and trust him.

There is no sense in playing what if. God might still hold my heart in his steel grip even had I not dropped out of school. All I know is that God turned one of my worst decisions ever into one of the best: to trust him even while free-falling.       

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. What does your part of the world boast in?
  3. What passage spoke most to you?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “A Really Bad Decision Made Good

  1. Linda

    I call this “Bungee-jumping with Jesus” because when we fall off the precipice and are in free-fall, we find that underneath are the everlasting arms. Always.

    Didn’t drop out of high school, but desperately wanted to. My mom (at my demand) didn’t even attend high school graduation. I put myself through college working two jobs and graduated at age 28. Have never made it to grad school. Yet. The desire is there. God makes it all good.

    • Linda:

      I love that idea of bungee-jumping with Jesus. Living life by faith (not blind but eyes wide-open “where are we going now, God?” faith) is dangerous but fun.

      My mom proudly attended my first seminary graduation. I made it through in part for her. She did not live to see my second one. My mom and I both learned the value of school and learning combined with a strong work-ethic (I have never met a more dedicated and faithful worker than my mom. She worked until a few months before her death at age 76) as we grew up together.

      I owe a lot to my wife, Dee Dee, too. When I considered going to college, she said, “Yes!” She never labeled me. And then never looked back even as we had kids and struggled.

      Thanks for sharing your story. I know God is using yours, as he has mine, to help others jump and free-fall into the arms of God. Keep up the good work.

  2. KATIE

    Dad,
    Thanks for always being so encouraging and supporting. I am blessed to have a dad who has gone through many challenges and yet has seen how Christ has pulled him through, not himself.It is an awesome testimony of God’s faithfulness. Your words in this blog were encouraging and they were exactly what God was challenging me with today in my own time in His word. Thanks for driving the point home in another way. I love you!

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