Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the day the space shuttle exploded. It paralleled how my life was going at the end of January 1986.
Just shortly after New Year’s Day, I had left for Southern California hoping to enter into a career in the management side of what was becoming known as Contemporary Christian Music. It was also the name of the magazine most associated with the genre, and I was being interviewed by a man I greatly respected for the job of Assistant Editor of that publication. While I didn’t have the proverbial “green card,” my knowledge of the business and experience as a music journalist were certainly in my favor. Besides, I had no moving costs, so what they were budgeting there could easily be switched over to the some relatively minor costs of getting my immigration status established.
But I didn’t get the job.
Undaunted, I went for an interview with a small independent record label. The guy running it could surely use my expertise and we’d worked together before.
But then I got a call that another record company executive wanted to speak with me. Three interviews in ten days, or so I thought. It turned out he wanted to tell me why I shouldn’t give up what I was doing in Toronto on the basis of the other company’s offer.
Wait, what? What was I doing in Toronto?
I was gigging from speaking engagements to youth group presentations of something called The Searchlight Video Roadshow. Me, some sound equipment, a by-today’s-standards primitive video projection system, and a bunch of Christian music videos. Part of the reason I flew back from Los Angeles on the 25th was to do a particularly important presentation of the show at the end of the month.
We had a contact at MuchMusic, which was the Canadian equivalent of MTV, and with its Latin, mass-inspired lyrics, the song “Kyrie” by Mister Mister was getting some crossover airplay on some edgier Christian radio stations. We asked our friend if he could dub us a “clean” copy of the song, as this would be a large group that had seen the show twice before, and we needed some new tunes.
At the last minute I asked him to include another Mister Mister song.
And then the Challenger blew up, 73 seconds into the flight.
While this affected everyone differently, the explosion seemed a metaphor for my life at that point. Three interviews in So. Cal. and no job. But it wasn’t about me.
As a peripatetic youth minister, I probably could have done more the night of the show to capture what the kids were thinking that night. It was a news cycle from which there was no escape; and that one of the astronauts was a teacher only added to the event’s proximity. Some youth pastors probably played to the emotion of the moment.
But we did one thing right that night, we played the other Mister Mister song. Take your broken wings, and learn to fly again. Not a Christian song exactly, but the right song for the right moment.
I spent the next weeks and months in a bit of a slump. My body was back in Toronto doing what I had been doing before, but my heart was in the editorial offices of CCM Magazine, or the management offices of the record company…
…Later that year I learned to fly again. In June, my own little music business made the largest individual sale we’ve ever made in 30 years. The same month I got invited to be the Staff Training Week speaker at a Christian summer camp, where I met the girl who just weeks later at Thanksgiving (plus one day) I would ask to marry me. The year ended quite differently than it had begun…
If you’re reading this in the middle of your own explosion, your own brokenness, take those broken wings and learn to fly again.
2 Corinthians 4:8 NIV We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.