Today marks one of the two worse days of my life. Nine years ago this morning, in a span of one hour, my postgraduate dreams and career in academia evaporated and my life cartwheeled into a world that was–and somewhat remains–unclear, unknown, and undefined.
This was the day I sat across from my doctoral examiners and was told in no uncertain terms how much they hated my dissertation. I remember vividly the final walk of humiliation–barely able to breathe–down the path and out of the university, the phone call home telling my wife it didn’t go well, and the day I left England for the last time only to return to word weeks later that a contract for a job I loved would not be renewed.
The first couple of years were the darkest. I was numb, lost, and filled with self-loathing. I couldn’t sleep, my blood pressure skyrocketed, and my whole body ached. I had frequent anxiety attacks. Yes, there were times I prayed that my heart would mercifully stop beating or that my brakes would fail just before my car slammed into a retaining wall. As time crept on, I started writing, saw a counselor, and tried to somehow move on from the complete mess that had become my life.
Nine years later, with a book published and hopefully at least another couple to follow, I have gained some perspective. Time doesn’t heal, but it can serve as a buffer. This year, however, the emotions flooded back with more intensity. This ninth anniversary is the first I had to face at the age of 50. I still wonder what God is doing with my life. And I certainly don’t have a career or a ministry at this point that would carry my wife and I into retirement (which seems ominously closer at 50 than it does at 49). In many ways, my life’s trajectory remains uncertain.
As of now, writing is the only thing I have got. I am so thankful for the publication of Losers Like Us (from a real life publisher no less)–that truly was a miracle. And I truly am thankful for every sale to this day. But rarely does writing make a sustaining career. It offers no guarantees. Yet it remains the only path God has shown me.
The future continues to look uncertain. Not bleak, just uncertain. I would be lying if I said I have not grown weary of the uncertainty. I truly wish God would reveal his plans even just a little. But God is not obligated to fulfill my wishes like a genie freed from a lamp. He is a big God. And he is good.
Like a single candle flickering in the darkness a thousand feet a way, I have hope. I hope that my life has clarity even though I myself might not see it, that we will be somehow taken care of as the days march on, and that my wife’s sacrifices caused by her husband’s chaotic life will be honored.
Nine years after the horrible day in England, I can say I have hope in this big, good God.
But I still feel the pain.
As good as God is, I will always feel the pain.