How I Failed American History and Became the Luckiest Guy in Oklahoma

My first F couldn’t have come at a worse time. I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to fail a college course, but this one felt especially inopportune.

On scholarship at a private Christian college, one condition of my financial aid was, of course, grade point average. Without the scholarship, attending the university was not a fiscal possibility.

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I’ll spare the details for another post, probably titled, Why I Suck at Forgiveness, but I will say this. I earned the failing grade. I did. I earned it. Nevertheless, I do believe my situation merited some mercy.

But the point here isn’t why I failed the class, but what happened as a result. My life turned upside down. I despaired.

I don’t fail courses. I ace them.

But I did fail.

I moved back home, back to my high school bedroom, back home with my parents. If you’ve never tried it, let me explain it to you; it doesn’t feel good. I’d flown the coup, but found out I was more of a boomerang than a bird.

While on the emotional mend, I enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma. Then some funny things started to happen.

I had opportunities I wouldn’t have had in Kansas. I took a writing course with a real live award-winning novelist and playwright.

I got an excellent job at an excellent school that I parlayed into a full-time gig where I still work today (read Do No Work for that madcap story).

But most importantly: I proposed to Katie.

It was on my birthday about six months after moving back home. I scraped together every cent I could dig up and bought this tiny rock at a seedy jewelry store located between a golf emporium and a cajun joint. At dinner that night I opened the box, and she said, “Yes."

The Michael Jordan Guide to Dealing with Failure

The myth of Michael Jordan’s beginnings as a basketball player are hard to sort out. Common knowledge says that Jordan was cut from his high school team. Michael Jordan—perhaps the greatest basketball player ever—cut!

But the truth appears less dramatic: he simply didn’t make the varsity team as an underclassman.1 Few people do.

Whatever the truth, the principle remains the same. It was this early failure that spurred Jordan to action. Had he not failed as a high schooler, would he have become the greatest player of his generation? Or would he have been content with his success and only practiced sort of hard instead of insanely hard? Jordan’s a competitive guy, but success has a way of softening a man.

What God Does with Your Despair

Maybe Katie and I would have wed even if I passed that American history course and stayed in Kansas. I’d like to think we would have.

But maybe not.

Maybe I’d have been content in Olathe, Kansas and she in Stillwater, Oklahoma (hard to imagine, I know). Maybe we’d have grown apart, replacing physical distance with the emotional kind.

Coming home a failure was emasculating, but I can think of few things worse than separation from my wife.

I don’t know what’s causing you to despair. I don’t know what’s got you down. But I do know this: God has a way of taking things that seem disastrous and making something good.

If you need another reminder of that fact, you should check out an article I wrote called This Simple Mindset Shift Will Revolutionize Your Church Experience (and Your Life). It will help you approach each day expecting God to show up and move in your life. Interested? Just tell me where to send it:

Thanks for reading. Be blessed.

1. Read more in this CBS Sports article by Ben Golliver:

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