Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, June 2, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©

In helping folks in the XYZ group at our church to look for the hinge moments in their lives, I told about my own.

It was the second semester of our senior year in high school, getting close to prom time. I was in the office practice room by myself, skipping lunch, because I was editor of the school newspaper and was up against a deadline. My workspace was a desktop I shared with the editor of the yearbook, who was my girlfriend. We weren’t “going steady,” but we had been dating for a year and a half and didn’t date anyone else. Everyone in school knew we were a couple.

As I worked, I saw on her part of the desk a list of prom couples that she was compiling for the yearbook, who went to the prom with whom. I ran my finger down the list to my name, but the line in the column across from it was blank. I ran my finger down the list to her name, and across from hers was not my name, but Vance’s.

I was shocked, humiliated, embarrassed. I had just assumed we would go to the prom together. Why not? I was the world’s best boyfriend. Whenever I needed her, I just assumed she would be there, and otherwise I respected her privacy by totally ignoring her and hanging out with my guy friends. What more could a girl want? Apparently, she wanted an actual invitation, and when she got one, she accepted it. To make matters worse, Vance was better looking than I. My girlfriend had traded up!

I quickly ran up and down the columns again. Any girl who might be willing to go to the prom with me was already paired up. I was left out. It was humiliating. My reputation as a cool guy was destroyed. I mean, I was principal bassoonist in the orchestra; you can’t get cooler than that. And I had no prom date.

I did the only logical thing. I immediately dropped out of school. I went to work in a factory on the night shift. That way, when the prom came, everyone would say, “Well, of course, Johney [1] can’t come to the prom, because his father is blind, and his family is on welfare, and he has to work in the factory to help out. He’s such a good boy. The fact that he is such a bad boyfriend that his girlfriend traded up has nothing to do with it.” [2]

That worked perfectly, except it was hot and humid in a metal factory building, and it was lonely, because most of my friends had day jobs. I had nobody to hang out with.

One day, though, I ran into Jim Shaw in town. We chatted about having nothing to do. He said, “Well, let’s drive up to IU and see if they’ll let us in.” It was mid-July, but we knew nothing of college admissions schedules. It sounded like something to do, so we did. Amazingly, they let us in, and even put me on the Residence Scholarship Program, for kids who could not afford college otherwise and who were willing to work their way through.

That was my hinge moment.

Ralph Sockman famously said, “The hinge of history is on a stable door in Bethlehem.” For Christians, Jesus is “the hinge of history,” and for me, going to college, the first in my family to do so, was the hinge of my personal history, when a door swung wide to a new future, the way that door in Bethlehem opened up the future for the world.

It’s important for old people to look back, see where the hinge turned, and realize that so often, “You traded up and broke my heart, but God meant it for good.” [Genesis 50:20] {3}


1] I spelled it that way to distinguish it from my uncle, Johnny Pond, and my father, who was known in my mother’s family as Johnny Mac.

2] I did get to go the prom, because my factory forewoman, who lived in another town, arranged for her daughter to go with me. I tell about that in the CIW for 5-11-15.

3] As usual, the Hebrew is a little uncertain there, so I have translated the first part of that sentence with a generous misuse of Masoretic pointing, and a line from a lot of country songs.


I tweet as yooper1721.

In baseball season, I like to remind folks about my poem for the 100th birthday of Babe Ruth, read at the conference celebrating that birth at Hofstra University, about the time Robert Frost pitched to the Babe, sort of.

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