Tuesday, January 6, 2009

November 9, 2001

The road to my enlistment is longer and more twisted than I thought. I got laid off from a dot-com job in 2001. Here's what I wrote the next week:

Friday, November 9

Can lightning strike twice in the same place? Certainly. Especially if the place in question is prone to storms. So, Friday, November 9, is a place in time I will try to avoid.
November 9, 1973, just after 9 a.m. was my first lightning strike. I was connecting wires to detonators at a U.S. Air Force missile test site in Utah. Someone turned on the power, and my world turned bright blue and white. Several minutes later I was strapped in an all-terrain ambulance headed for the first of six eye operations that would eventually restore my sight. Along with the eye operations, I had surgery to reattach two fingers on my right hand and to remove wires, screws and various pieces of metal from my face, arms and chest.
It was Friday. I had planned to ride my motorcycle up into the mountains for the weekend. My plans changed.
On November 9, 1973, I woke up an agnostic. Before the day ended, I believed in God and a few months later, I went the whole way to become a Christian. I would have preferred a smoother path to faith, but at 20 years old, I test-fired missiles for a day job and rode a motorcycle in mountains of Utah for recreation. I was not inclined to listen to a still, small voice—blindness was the right size for God’s megaphone.
Fast forward 28 years. Friday, November 9, 2001, just after 9 a.m., lightning struck at the same place in time. My supervisor took me to a vacant conference room to tell me I no longer had a job, effective immediately. Twenty-eight years before (almost to the minute) I had no faith and no obligations. This time I had faith, a house, a wife, four children and am part of a faith community. Now that I am listening to Him more closely, God can be more subtle. The moment of crisis is over and I can still see just fine. All my fingers are attached and when I shave I don’t feel metal scraping.
But I was not listening as well as I could. The long hours and hectic pace of my job frustrated many of the good impulses I had to serve people in need. If it was my job that tied my hands, then God just cut the ropes clean through.
For most of the year since I started my current job, I have felt uneasy, felt I should be doing something else. But good pay and great co-workers made it hard to leave. Now I am more free to listen. And I can exercise faith in a way I never have before. I worked summers and weekends since age 12 and have never taken more than two weeks off in the 36 years since. Work has defined me. In recent years, I have tried to keep work locked in a compartment away from the rest of my life. I have had some success at this, but at the expense of commitment to my work.
Now I have the opportunity to find work that either serves people in need more directly, or that keeps me closer to home and more involved with my family and community. Wherever God leads me in the coming weeks and months, I’ll be thankful for the time I have had to think, reflect and to reconnect with friends.
But I will also be careful. Friday, November 9, happens again in 2007, 2012 and 2018 before the next 28-year interval ends in 2029. One thing I am sure of: If I am still alive on Friday, November 9, 2029, I am staying in bed.

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