Turning Points: Childhood
Late in the afternoon of December 20, 1966 I slid into the back seat of our family’s ’57 Buick and noticed that my mother was sobbing – something that as an eight-year-old, I was unaccustomed to seeing. Before I could even ask the question, she gave the answer… “Bill died.” I slumped in the back seat, feeling overwhelmed and utterly helpless. Bill was my mother’s boyfriend and he had died the night before in a horrific car accident. This was a life-changer for my mother, my sister and brother, and for me. A Turning Point.
Bill McNish, buried at White Chapel Memorial Gardens, Dewitt, NY
As I think back on the years I have been privileged to live on this Earth, I recall a number of events – precise moments in time – that had great impact on my life. Each one seemed to be ephemeral, quickly passing. Yet today, I am able look back and see each event as life-changing. Particularly during my childhood years, these moments were beyond my control, but in each case, the direction of my life suddenly changed. These were Turning Points.
About a week after Bill’s death, Mom was invited to a New Year’s Eve party and she met Sherman, an enlisted man in the Air Force. Soon they began to spend more time together and we as children also enjoyed his time with us. Mom and Sherman were married on August 19, 1967 and our lives changed. A Turning Point.
Months went by and although our family was stable, I had trouble adjusting. I lacked motivation and created difficulties in the family. Mom decided a change would be good for me and I went to live with my father, who shared a home with his sister, my Aunt Mary. One afternoon in the spring of 1968 I talked with my mom on the phone. She said, “Jeffery, you need to make a decision. Sherman and I and your brother and sister are moving away from Syracuse and will be living overseas. You need to decide if you’re coming with us or if you will stay with your father.” It was a tough call for a nine-year-old and I needed to make the decision in that moment. I was conflicted, but after a few moments of thought, I decided to return to my family. A Turning Point.
In the spring of 1968, we moved from Syracuse, to Norfolk, Virginia, a transitional move for us as my step-dad Sherman departed for the Philippines. We were to meet him in Okinawa after a few months and in July, we departed Norfolk on a series of jet flights beginning in Washington, DC. We flew to San Francisco, then island-hopped across the Pacific, ultimately arriving in the city of Naha, Okinawa. In just eighteen months, our family had dramatically progressed from living in financial difficulty to living in a foreign land. A Turning Point.
In the summer of 1973, Dad retired from the Air Force after twenty-one years of service. The question then became, what next? As a family, we drove through portions of Dad’s home state of North Carolina as he looked for work. I remember visiting the cities of Fayetteville and Goldsboro. No work to be found and yet we drove on as the road seemed endless. Our family was of course unsettled and unsure about the future. Three kids in the back seat as parents had an animated discussion about the next steps to take. Finally, Dad asked Mom, “What the hell do you want me to do?” The answer from Mom was firm and forceful: “Turn this car around and get me back to Syracuse!” Immediately the car was redirected and we were headed north. A Turning Point.
Each of these events were significant, indeed seminal moments in my life, but I did not understand the full implications until later in my adult years. Now I am able to reflect and look back. I see great significance in each one. But I sometimes wonder… how might my life have been different if I or others who had key roles in my life had made different choices? What if I or they had done the exact opposite in any one of these events, these Turning Points?
Decisions Often = Turning Points
We tend to live our lives in the day-to-day, focused on the immediate and the many things that require, even demand, our attention. We make decisions that may seem mundane as we move forward in the direction of our own choosing. Yet in the midst of our sometimes frenzied pace, we can easily miss the significance of small events and decisions, as if they are inconsequential. Sometimes they are not inconsequential. Sometimes they become Turning Points.
This is true in my life. This is true in your life as well. The Bible makes it clear that God patiently works in our lives, drawing us to Himself through His Word and His Holy Spirit. The events or Turning Points of our lives are designed or used of Him to bring us to repentance, saving faith, and eternal life through His Son – Christ Jesus the Lord.
This has been true in my life. This can be true in your life as well. During this Christmas season, I encourage you to consider your personal journey. What are the turning points for you? Are you able to see God at work?
A man’s heart devises his way: but the Lord directs his steps.
~ Proverbs 16:9
God patiently and lovingly guides us through life with a sequence of events and divine appointments designed to carry out His plan for that which is best for us and to carry out His purposes. Turning Points.
How should you and I respond to this? As people we come to deeper understanding upon reflection. For me, it was years later as I contemplated the working of God in my life. I gradually came to understand and see just a bit of the Lord’s wondrous work in my life. Perhaps I have yet to fully grasp it all. Certainly this is worthy of some occasional contemplation!
As I consider the Turning Points in my life, I know that God was (and is) at work, clearly and patiently directing my path for my own good and for His glory.
© Jeffery J. Michaels / PlainEnglish Publications 2018
(quotations allowed with attribution to this blog)