What I Couldn’t Say Then

This is the story of how a farm girl from rural Michigan ended up attending a private Christian college, which led to a career first as a bilingual legal secretary then ultimately becoming a published author and founder of this blog.

In September 1983, I was at a college weekend retreat. I don’t remember what the cabins were like but I remember the bathrooms. There were no stalls or doors. Everything you did, and I mean everything, was out in the open in the all-girls’ bathroom. I was a very shy person and it was an uncomfortable experience.

Being shy also led to an embarrassing incident during a group session when students were sharing their testimonies. We sang songs in between the speaking. One song that touched my heart that day was “For Those Tears I Died.”

In that song, there is a line about God “Opening all the right doors.”

That was my testimony. God had opened the doors for this farm girl to attend a private Christian college, and I felt moved to share that. Only I wasn’t brave enough to speak up. I listened to everyone else talking, and the pressure I felt to talk led to tears. I’d always been sensitive and cried when I got emotional. This time, it was in the presence of strangers, students whom I’d hoped to get acquainted with and maybe impress.

Sitting there crying, I grew more embarrassed and uncomfortable. When someone shared about a family member who wasn’t a Christian, I got up and quickly said something similar to take the pressure off.

While I couldn’t share my testimony that day, I thought of it this past month as I pondered what spring break experiences to write about. I wouldn’t have been attending that Christian college if it hadn’t been for an incident that happened while I was in driver’s education class.

My story begins with a tree, an inexperienced student driver, and a stick shift training car that may or may not have had faulty brakes.

It was April 14, 1981 during spring break. I was scheduled to drive with the instructor and other students for the first time. I was nervous about it because the car was a stick shift. My dad had taken me out a couple of times in his pickup to teach me, and I couldn’t get the hang of the clutch.

I thought I was supposed to drive in the morning. So by lunchtime, when the instructor hadn’t shown up yet, I thought she wasn’t coming. I was eating macaroni and cheese when the car pulled into the driveway.

I got in the car and we left my house with another student driving. Our route took us cross-country along rough gravel roads with hills that made it difficult to shift the car.

Overcorrecting a mistake led to the car going off into the trees, and it didn’t stop.

That collision left me with a compression fracture in my lumbar spine, which healed after a few weeks in a back brace.

It was a shock when the school’s insurance company approached us a year later and offered a cash settlement as compensation for my injuries. My parents weren’t the type to sue and it hadn’t crossed our mind to do so. We wouldn’t have considered taking a settlement, but my dad was concerned that because of my back injury, I wouldn’t be able to work at a job where I had to stand on my feet all day. The settlement offer seemed providential. We all thought that with the money, I’d be able to attend college and train for a career that wouldn’t aggravate my back injury.

I checked into several colleges. I wanted to attend a private Christian school that had a program I was interested in. Several doors opened up and led the way for me to go there.

  1. The college was the same denomination as my church, so I knew I’d get a scholarship. (I didn’t realize until later that it was a nominal amount.)
  2. A representative from the college came to my high school to talk to me about it. They had just started a communications major with a commercial writing emphasis. I was a writer, and wanted to pursue a career in journalism.
  3. A worship team from another college of the same denomination came to our church. I talked with one of the members and he encouraged me to apply. (It didn’t hurt that he was good looking, although I never saw him again as he attended a different college.)
  4. I met another high school student through a church committee who planned to attend the same college. We decided to become roommates.

Those open doors that led to my decision to attend Spring Arbor University and live in the dorms. The settlement, along with financial aid, paid my way.

During the two years I spent there, I had many experiences like the retreat weekend that helped me grow spiritually. Over time, I did learn to speak up and share my faith.

I didn’t complete a college degree, but I had the opportunity to study in Mexico. I became fluent in Spanish, which led to working as a legal secretary for a bilingual attorney. I also learned how to write and edit for newspapers. I’ve used life experiences and the skills I learned in communications classes to put together this blog.

The driver’s ed accident was an unfortunate experience, but God used it to open doors that might not have been open for me otherwise.

Everything I am today is because of God’s hand on my life. I give Him the glory for all the blessings He has given me.

Published by Carol Underhill

Author of Christian romance. Mom to 3 adult children and a spoiled Lab. Household includes several rescued cats. Loves flavored coffees and quiet mornings. Likes finding new authors on Kindle and binge reading all their books.

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