I remember 1987 as the year of desperation. It was also the year I graduated from college.
Working part-time as a hostess in a restaurant to pay for tuition, I realized I was employed by the primary industry keeping the economy alive in Tulsa, Oklahoma during a severe economic downturn. Juggling long days of classes and homework, I walked miles over the same stretch of tile and carpet; seating people at tables and cleaning up after them, while most people slept at night.
It was the year Oral Roberts locked himself in the prayer tower, refusing to come down until he raised one million dollars. His antics kept newspaper reporters busy and recruiters away from his university campus. I was looking for a job in Marketing without prospects.
I guess we were all pretty desperate.
Oral cancelled our graduation speaker and inserted himself behind the podium at the last minute, despite pushback from students. He used a day of celebration for hundreds as the pulpit for another sales speech. After all, he had a captive audience.
I sat on the front row fuming red-faced, wagging my blue patent leather shoe over my leg like a mallet hitting a base drum, the golden tassel hanging from my cap swinging in tandem. High above in the rafters, the charade on stage gave my father confirmation. Evidence about why he chose not to pay for my college education. I was indeed attending a school “like that.”
That’s when hope kicked in.
That summer, while I was wiping tables with a sour bar cloth, carrying steaming plates behind ponytails and chinos, I was dreaming about where I could move. Creating scenarios in my mind about the potential of my future, hope rose into my chest, pulsing with possibility.
I narrowed my prayers to three places: Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix. I’d never visited any of those cities but I was ready for change and adventure; to pry the cap off fate.
Providentially, a few days later, a friend invited me to move with her to one of those places on my list. I had two days to make the decision about driving across the country in my Honda CRX. I sat down on my mother’s couch and gave God an ultimatum. The first of two times I’d ever addressed Him with that kind of bold confidence.
I’m not getting up until you show me if this is right. It’s up to you to keep me from making the potentially worst decision of my life.
That day hope became more than a lofty emotion, it was a pathway to perseverance and trust.
In the The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown says, “Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them and believing in our own abilities.”
While I agree with that, more than believing in myself, I believe in the power of Christ working on my behalf.
In a peaceful leaning, I filled my suitcases the next day. It was a prelude to the worst winter storm in decades. Streets, tree limbs and roofs on houses turned into skating rinks, everything covered in thick layers of ice. Dark and quiet eerie stillness transformed the landscape. Icicles let go of dead power lines shattering like glass on vacant streets below, interrupting the stillness; a metaphor for life’s fragility.
The power was out for hundreds of thousands but my tank was full of gas, my trunk stuffed with hope.
Have you ever given God an ultimatum?