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Pivot Points

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost -1920

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33

As I am quickly coming up on the big “6-5” and I have been thinking about the many decisions I have made over the years, decisions that have led me to the point I now find myself. Most of these decisions have had little impact, such as what pair of pants to wear, what shirt goes with my jeans, or what should I eat for breakfast. But there are a handful of decisions that have had a significant impact altering the overall trajectory of my life in sometimes profound ways. Had I turned left when I turned right my life would have been significantly different. We all have these forks in the road, so to speak, and taking one path or another leads to completely different destinations.

I call these pivot points.

In my teens years I had one of these pivot points that significantly altered the trajectory of my life. If we wind the clock back to the mid-1970s, the scene is my father and I traveling in our Volkswagen Beetle to see some longtime friends of the family. The sister of the man we were on our way to visit was a pivot point in my father’s life, as she is the one that invited him and his mother to church where they heard the gospel and became believers. They had a son my age (we will call him D) that I used to hang around with, as I loved playing pool, and they had a pool table in their basement. In fact, I was the best man at his wedding several years later.

But I digress. Back to the Beetle ride. As we passed the home of some young men that went to our church, for some unknown reason, I asked my father if I could spend the day with them instead. Knowing my father, the chances of him doing that were less than one percent, but for some unknown reason he turned around, drove back to the home of these two young men, and allowed me to spend the day with them. As I think back on this, I can only put it into the “God moment” column as to this day I do not know why I wanted to spend the day with these two young men and why, of all things, my father turned around and dropped me off to be with them.

But, that event permanently altered the trajectory of my life!

What started as a day with these two young men (let’s call them J&J) turned into a friendship that has lasted over the years. Although I was some three years younger than them, their family welcomed me into their lives often having me over for supper. Their father was a pastor at a small church in Akron, and I remember going with them on Sundays to visit, spending the day with some of the members of that church. They took me to Bible Studies with them and were to a large degree my older brothers in a sense. At one time, we all took a trip together to Bob Jones University with the pastor of our small church in 1974, and we would also do door-to-door evangelism together. (By the way, both J&J went on to attend Bob Jones University, graduating from there in the late 1970’s).

I remember in particular the Bible studies we would do over at the home of one of the members of our small church starting in the mid 1970’s. This was the result of an evangelistic crusade put on by Life Action Ministries in Minnesota (a ministry which continues to this day). There were several young men and women from various churches in the area, and although I was the youngest of the bunch by at least three years, that didn’t make any difference. The spiritual influence of J&J in those teen years of mine made a lasting, positive impact on me. They included me in their lives, and in fact in 1979 one of them had me be a groomsman in his wedding over in the Chicago area.

But the influence of J&J wasn’t just spiritual, they also introduced me to what would later become my career, IT. They were taking a class at Oberlin High School in computer programming, and I remember going with them when they wrote the first Fortran program I had ever seen. I was fascinated by this new distraction, and over the next few years developed an aptitude and passion for computer programming which led to my first job at Oberlin College in Computing and later became a forty-three-year career.

But what if I had turned left instead? What if I had passed up this friendship with J&J and instead spent the day with my father at D’s home? I don’t know! I do know this, had I instead developed a close relationship with D things would have probably been much different. Although I was the best man in D’s wedding, over the years we continued to drift farther and farther apart. What I know of D’s life now is that he has wandered far from God, and the last I know he is living a very profligate life of rebellion and indifference to spiritual things. To be honest, I do not even know if he is a believer.

But J&J have remained faithful to the Lord. One of them became a missionary, and later a pastor of a small church not too far from me. His son is a pastor as well, serving in a small church in southern Ohio. The other one lives in the Chicago area and has raised a family of four, all of them serving the Lord in one capacity or another.

As I wrap up this blog article, I would hope that I too may become a “pivot point” for someone else. I would like to “pay it forward” so to speak and be a positive influence on another young man. After all, we all influence others on the way we live our lives, whether for good or bad.

So, in closing I leave you with this thought…

…are you a good pivot point, or a bad one?

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