The One That Got Away

Yesterday I received a magazine in the mail from my journalism school. I flipped to the back to see what some of my classmates had been up to, and I saw his name. His is the name that was announced as the winner of the prestigious scholarship I was supposed to receive. And for years I had imagined how my professional path would have been different if that scholarship had been mine.

It was winter of my junior year. I had prepared for the test for 1 1/2 years, but I had a couple of strikes against me: First, I had been sick all semester with pneumonia and assorted complications; second, I was a pawn in a political battle between two warring professors. I was the protegé of one, and he was the protegé of the other. Problem was, the other professor had a deciding vote.

And he got it. I remember being stunned when I heard the news. He would land the killer internship; he would land a spot at a metropolitan paper upon graduation. His mentor threw me a bone: a decent-paying internship in the public relations department of a large non-profit. I took it along with every opportunity to demonstrate how much it was beneath me. So my second shock came when I got a B in the course.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.—Romans 8:28

After graduation, I eventually left newspapers to become a freelance writer—the very goal I had set as a journalism student. As one who had never known a stable home life or the love of parents, I never intended to work full-time outside the home. Being a wife and mom were my primary objectives. Writing was a distant second. It had never been a matter of ambition so much as pride.

Therefore [the Scripture] says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God.—James 4:6b-7

Yesterday I read about how this man who won my scholarship has gone on to win a Pulitzer Prize, be nominated for several more, and win another huge honor for reporting. And for the first time (I am very ashamed to say), I found myself genuinely happy for him. The scholarship put him on a path to tremendous success, a path that was rightly his. It was never to be mine.

Because I didn’t win, I stayed on the path to my dream, which was having a family of my own to whom I could impart freedom from bondage to sin. Two of our children are pursuing full-time ministry and all three profess faith in Christ. Now I have the awesome privilege of pointing grandchildren toward faith in Christ. I’ll take that over a scholarship any day.

To my former classmate, if you happen to read this, congratulations. I admire your skill and your tenacity. And to the professor who denied me the opportunity I considered rightfully mine, thank you for sparing me from myself. Though I didn’t see it at the time—or for a long time to come—you were an instrument of God, to Whom be all glory now and forever. Amen.