I’m sitting in a bustling office waiting to be called back for an interview. Its April of 2006. The interview I’ve prepared for is for an internship that I want so badly I could scream. It would just be for the summer – 8 weeks total – but it would be paid and would bridge the gap while I submit resumes for full time jobs. More importantly, its an internship in the field that I love. I’d get to spend the whole summer working at various non profits and learning with other interns about the ins and outs of the organizations that I really want to work for.
The only thing standing between me and this opportunity is a panel of faculty and student leaders who are interviewing candidates and deciding who will be the best fit for the program. As I look back on it, I had no reason to be worried. I already had a resume that was charting a path towards this internship to begin with. I also had that sixth sense in my bones that this program was created just for me.
The major problem I was ruminating on was the fact that in that season I had a tendency to choke when the performance really mattered. I had my first panic attack in a classroom where I was presenting for a final exam in a marketing class. I looked at screen where my slides were projected and I couldn’t see what was in front of me. The notes I had practiced with suddenly made no sense as my mind became a jumbled mass of incoherent thoughts.
From that time forward, it felt like I was always one step away from losing my grip before I needed to do something important. For this reason, what should have been a confident interview started with me in a hallway waiting to be called, one step shy of full on panic.
If you could have read my thoughts in those 15 minutes it would have been saying something like this:
“What if I panic when they ask the first question?
“Escape plan! Just run out of the room like you did during the presentation.”
“But then your dream internship will be lost!”
“OK stay in the chair and breath. stay in the chair and breathe. stay in the chair and breathe. ”
“But what if I panic when they ask the first question?”
“Escape plan! Just run out of the room like you did…”
Now picture this conversation on a hyper drive loop. Like when you accidentally hit the button on the record player that makes all the voices sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks. And then picture those same four sentences playing over and over again non-stop for 15 minutes at Alvin speed. Add in regular rushes of adrenaline typically reserved for the top of a roller coaster or the appearance of a robber and you have my basic state of mind and body, minutes before my interview. At least that was my state of mind until something strange happened.
Greg Savarese, a classmate and acquaintance from various campus activities over the last four years, rounds a corner at a quick clip and stumbles over my foot. He looks back to see what caught his shoe.
“Oh hey, Courtney! Sorry I didn’t see you there. How’s it going?”
Surprised by the unexpected fumbling of people and shoes and then equally surprised to realize I knew the person I’d almost tripped, Alvin and the Chipmunks were silenced instantaneously.
“Hey, Greg. Fine, thanks. Where are you headed…”
We engage in a five minute conversation about our plans after graduation, only having to part ways when I am called back by Amy, another classmate who is facilitating my interview that morning. She chats me up all the way to the classroom where I see smiling faces with hands extended in welcome and greeting.
I finish a great interview and reflect on the fact that Greg Savarese turned a corner in the nick of time.
And I realize that this is what Grace looks like.
Unmerited, unworked for, unearned favor. Something I couldn’t have orchestrated if I had tried, in the very moment that i needed it.
A friend of mine texted me this week: “God doesn’t give grace for our imagined fears.”
It struck me that this is true. It also strikes me that he has given me grace over and over again in the very moments that I’ve needed it.
Oh, that this would sink into the marrow of my bones.
I’d be the freest woman of them all.