“The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.” I’m pretty sure I first heard that expression from my sister Sarah–at least, I hear her voice when I think about it. She always said it about relationships, and I’ve passed it on to many a friend after they experienced a breakup. The relationship cliche I most often say, though, is its sister: “Timing is everything.” Both of these clearly apply to my relationship with Robert–even though he ended up being the “right” guy for me, it would have been the most definite wrong thing if we had gotten together when we first met, and I was a youth leader and he was a 16 year old!
But I was thinking about “the right thing at the wrong time” the other day, not in terms of relationship but opportunity. I heard about the Glen Workshop–basically a weeklong summer camp for creatives, put on by Image Journal–a few years ago, and have always wanted to attend. This year, I thought I could make it happen, and I even applied for a scholarship–which I was offered! I felt flattered and validated in my writing and excited about attending, but when I really sat down with the numbers, how much it would cost even with the scholarship, I felt deflated. Although we technically have the money, Robert and I have committed to paying off the rest of our (read: my) student debt by the end of this year, which means my entire paycheck and a chunk of his goes straight to loan payments before we let ourselves think twice about it.
Robert was supportive and encouraging about it, but I knew, deep down, that this was just not my year. There had been big talk in January about making sacrifices in order to be debt free in a year, and I knew that this was one of those sacrifices. Then, I had a serious case of FOMO. (Fear of missing out, for those of you who don’t know…) What if the Glen Workshop is exactly what I need to rejuvenate my writing? What if there are lifelong friends waiting to be made there? What if I made connections that could open up doors for my writing career? Their tagline, “A Week Can Change a Life,” didn’t help.
Alas: “The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing,” I remembered. Is the Glen Workshop a fantastic opportunity, a wonderful place of faith-filled creativity and camaraderie? Yes. It’s a good thing. A “right” thing. But for me, the wrong time. I’ve found that sometimes if you push something to happen, if you try to jam that square peg of an opportunity into the round hole of your particular season in life, it spoils the good thing. It comes with a bitterness that it wouldn’t have if one had waited for the right timing.
This is one of the most beautiful lessons (and there are many) I have learned from the Chronicles of Narnia. In The Magician’s Nephew, Digory helps Aslan in the creation of the new world Narnia by plucking a magic apple from a mountaintop garden. After picking the fruit, an evil queen (yes, the White Witch from the other book) tempts Digory to bring the apple home to his world, to feed to his dying mother. After some agonizing, he decides to be obedient to Aslan and simply take the apple to him, which he then plants to protect young Narnia. Aslan knows all about the temptation, and informs Digory that it would have been a terrible thing for him to have given his mother the apple–it would have healed his mother, but not to her joy or Digory’s, Aslan says, and in fact, a day would have come when they would think it was better for her to have died in her illness.
“For the fruit always works–it must work–but it does not work happily for those who pluck it of their own will. …That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruit at the wrong time and in the wrong way. The fruit is good, but they loathe it ever after.”
I suppose that’s all a bit dramatic to apply to missing a writing workshop, but still, it makes me think. What are some other fruits I may have plucked at the wrong time or in the wrong way? It’s difficult not to see my experience at Fuller as one of these good fruits that I (sometimes) loathe ever after…in the form of the debt I’m trying to dig myself out of. But it’s also hard to regret that choice, as it changed me as a thinker and connected me to people I am so, so grateful to know. Thankfully, even when we make the wrong choice, eat the fruit at the wrong time, there is always hope for redemption…as the saying goes, “God wastes nothing.”
What about you? Have you ever experienced the right thing at the wrong time being the wrong thing? Or the opposite, the sweetness of the right thing at the right time?