You spit out manna, God sends quails

The worst time of my dating life came in the early months of 1997.

The relationship that I was in was in a progressive downhill slide. Still separated on different campuses, it seemed that all we did was argue over the phone for about a month and each argument was progressively testier and snippy. Soon, we were hemming each other into corners and drawing our battle lines and it was inevitable that the end would not be happy. A cornered animal strikes the most savage.

Spencer has a pretty funny retelling of the worst argument over the phone, and in retrospect it probably was pretty funny. The event earned legendary status around my fraternity house and soon people that hadn’t even started college yet were claiming they were there when the volcano erupted.

At the time, however, it wasn’t funny at all. I sat on the floor of my room, having smashed my phone into pieces after she had hung up on me in mid-conversation and it was only then that my eyes were opened.

I had bought into so many lies.

Sure, I was angry at her. I was furious with her. More than anything else, however, I was angry at myself. I had made myself look like a fool. I had been investing money in a stock for two and a half years that went bankrupt on me. I had no one to blame but myself.

My big brother in my Fraternity, Alan Smith, always repeated Proverbs 4:23 to me, “Above all else, guard your heart for out of it flows the wellspring of life.” I would always nod and agree, but deep down I knew then that I had my guard had long since taken a vacation. Only a couple months earlier, I had been in a discipleship group with friends and we read Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity and one of the important points that Elliot made was that while many Christians think of physical intimacy as being something to be curbed until marriage (you know, we’re always asking, “How far is too far in a dating relationship?”) that emotional and spiritual intimacy before marriage can be just as damaging and sinful. We are all too eager to “play house”, that is, behave as a married couple claiming each other as our own even though there is no commitment underneath. The results are, most of the time, disastrous. I had read all that and discussed all that and now it was slapping me in the face. I had put more expectation and commitment into a relationship that had no explicit commitment. There was no wedding ring, so why was I so offended and surprised when she walked away?

Now, I was ensnared with all the traps of committing too much into a failed relationship. It was too easy to snipe about the “insane ex-girlfriend” or roll my eyes whenever her name was brought up in a conversation. All of these were the symptoms of biting into the forbidden apple and choking on the worms. I had made my own bed and I hated lying in it. I looked at myself in the mirror and took a good hard look myself, and I didn’t like at all what I saw. The blinding truth was that my eyes were opened to just how badly off the mark I was from trusting in the Lord and I knew I would never be able to live happily in that ignorance ever again.

Mike Roe wrote a powerful song called “God Sends Quails” that I remember hearing for the first time around this era of my life. The relentless pounding drum and bass-line and endlessly repeating words “You failed…. you can’t go back. You can’t go back” was ominous and no encouragement, but it was the truth. The song also says, “you spit out manna, God sends quails” and that described well how I felt. I complained to Lord, like the Isrealites about the manna, while I wandered in that wilderness of my life but the Lord still provided, even to me and my petulant, quarrelsome spirit.

After the smoke had cleared, we had one last conversation and it was pretty clear that we should each go opposite directions. When I finished the phone call (on the replacement phone I bought for our room…. I made sure not to spend a lot on it), I put the “Song of Moses” on the CD player and praised God. It was time to radically reconstruct my life and take a good hard look at some of my many bad habits. The empty expanse of the desert lay before me and I had no choice but to follow the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud across it alone.

Off to Hokie-land

Tommorrow, Georgia Tech will play their first ever game in Blacksburg. However, it’s not the first time that the Yellow Jackets have attempted to play at Blacksburg.

Sure, the Hokies and Jackets have met before. Georgia Tech squeaked out a win over Virginia Tech (a team that just beginning their ascent to be a national power) by a scant score of 6-3, thanks to the kicking leg of Scott Sisson, during the 1990 National Championship year. There was also last year’s unreal comeback when VT dropped 25 points on Georgia Tech in the final five and half minutes of the game to win 34-20. Incidentally, this was probably the only game where Adriene was angrier about the result than I was. She was ready to have Chan Gailey fired immediately that very night.

But, the really interesting game was the one that never happened. In 2000, Georgia Tech travelled up to Blacksburg for the 2000 BCA Classic, a “pre-season” matchup that was to feature Micheal Vick, fresh off of VT’s run to the National Championship and the Sugar Bowl in 1999. This was also George Godsey’s first start at quarterback after Joe Hamilton graduated. I was convinced a slow white boy like Godsey was destined for disaster and all hope had left with Hamilton, but Godsey did just fine, going 25-12 during his three years as starting quarterback.

As the teams warmed up on the field for the night game, the storm clouds gathered above the stadium. As the two teams lined up on the field of the opening kickoff and the Hokie crowd began to roar, the officials blew the whistle and ordered the teams off the field just moments before the kicker was to start the game. Lightning had been spotted in the area and the teams were send to their locker rooms for safety. Moments later the rain began to pour and lightning and thunder surrounded the stadium.

The highlight of the evening came when ESPN captured live a lightning strike right outside of the stadium, hitting a car and sending a shower of sparks up around the car. The car turned out to be none other than ESPN analyst Lee Corso’s rental car. That’s what you get for picking the Hokies, Corso. Heavy rain and lightning continued throughout the evening and finally the game was cancelled.

It’s probably just as well that the game never happened. The next week Georgia Tech opened their season at home against Central Florida and Godsey struggled mightily in his first start ever until pulling the game out at the end to win 21-17. One suspects Georgia Tech would not have had that kind of good fortune against Virginia Tech in 2000 as the Hokies steamrolled to an 11-1 record capped off with a Gator Bowl victory over Clemson.

So, this year, Georgia Tech will try again to play their first ever game in Blacksburg. Quarterback Reggie Ball is recovering from an illness this week and his health and stamina could go a long way towards determining whether the Yellow Jackets have a shot at a big upset on the road.

….but at least this year, maybe the game will actually happen.

Do we start all over again?

I had screwed up my courage and set my face like flint and I was ready to see her again. I hadn’t seen her in person since we broke up six months ago and I was prepared to not tip my hand at all. I would be stoic in her presence. I had done a pretty good job of getting over her, but I wasn’t about to show anything other than 100 percent over her to her. I was at a party at a friend’s house and I knew she would be there. We had too many friends in common for her not to be there. So, I had plenty of time to prepare for the awkwardness and uncomfortable conversation that comes with talking to a former girlfriend. When she asked if she could talk to me in private, I knew it was time to put the poker face on. I had mentally rehearsed for just about any conversation I would have with her. I was prepared for just about anything she would say.

Except for this.

She told me she missed me and wanted to get back together. I hadn’t prepared for this at all. I kept up the poker face and said I’d have to think about it. Inside, my mind was already off in a hundred directions. During the past six months, I had boxed up all the memories and emotions of our relationship and stored them away in a locker in my brain. Now I had to choose whether or not I wanted to take the key and let them out again. During that time, dating had been mostly fruitless (truthfully, I was actually enjoying not being in a relationship), but I had started to develop some new crushes. Now, I had to decide if I wanted to prematurely cancel those potential unknowns and go back to the known.

Our relationship had been pretty good, but at the same time, this was now the second time she had caught me totally off-guard, breaking up with me and now suddenly showing up again in my life. Was I prepared to re-enter a relationship knowing full well that she had the potential to surprise me yet again? Or, did I want to turn my back on something that admittedly, was pretty good when it was good? Were we going to just go right back to the same relationship we had before with the same level of intensity as if nothing had happened, or was it going to take some time to re-build the relationship? Was I willing to take the risk of giving this up to chase after girls that had no interest in me yet again?

I agonized over these questions for several days. I asked a couple friends for advice, but no one seemed to have any clear-cut advice one way or the other. There seemed no obvious answer.

Finally, after vacillating between the choices, I decided to try and ease back into dating her again. I was hoping we could just casually date for a little bit and see where things went, but I couldn’t follow my own rules. When you’ve been that close to someone before, it’s virtually impossible to throttle back your feelings. Before long, we were together again and acting just like we were a year ago as if the six months that we were apart was just another summer in Florida.

But everything was not the same. Six months apart had opened our eyes to a lot of other things besides each other. We were both undergoing personal crises that churned underneath our surfaces that we held from each other. The relationship was growing more and more intense and the prevailing attitude became “this has to work. Or else” The level of committment in the relationship was soaring too high and there was no next level like marriage or even engagement realistically in sight. After an easy spring quarter, college had returned in intensity and ferocity with a punishing fall quarter. I was, again, having a difficult time balancing my personal life, my academic life, and my romantic life. All three were starting to buckle under the pressure and it was only a matter of time before something would give.

In so many areas of my life, I was holding the lid firmly down on a pot in a rolling boil at the end of 1996.

Keane at the Tabernacle

I was gonna write up a review on the Keane concert I went to last night, but Adriene beat me to it, and did a very fine, concise, and thorough review at that. So I’ll just link to her review.

The only comment I will make about the show is that it seems this band keeps outflanking my suspicions they are a one-trick pony. I keep wondering “just how much can you do with piano, drums, and vocals?” and they just keep knocking out sparse, minimalist, beautiful, hook-laden tunes. I was surprised that many of the songs I liked at the show most were not the ones that I was familiar with, but the ones I had only heard once before or never before. I’ll say I’m definitely looking forward to their next album.