Because Life Can Turn on a Dime (no. 6)


A friend is beginning a difficult journey that she never anticipated. A once healthy family member is undergoing tests that could determine an unwelcome new normal. She described the shock to her system this way:

“In an instant, life can turn on a dime.”

When she gave this thought a voice, we both got a bit quiet, letting that reality permeate our emotions.

In an instant . . .

Enjoying the light-hearted days of summer quickly turned to a serious outlook to what autumn might bring.

Life can turn . . .

The word turn in this particular expression means to change direction very quickly. Suddenly life for my friends is divided into a before and an after. Before a doctor’s orders for testing, physical issues were minor concerns. After, a search for something life threatening was the necessary direction to follow.

On a dime . . .

The origin of this idiom goes back to specialty cars, airplanes, and boats that have the capability to turn very quickly in small areas, such as on a dime which is the smallest of coins. It strikes me that when brokenness in our bodies is revealed, this quick turn is involuntary. Unlike the operators of those high performance vehicles, we are not the ones doing the manuevering. Our hearts, minds, and souls are not given the chance. Nothing in our being gets to say, “I’ve decided this change of direction isn’t for me. My wheel is not turning and I’m staying the same course, thank you.”

Life can, and will, turn on a dime for all of us at some juncture. It’s unavoidable. The question is not the existential if,  but the pragmatic how.

How will we respond when a change of direction is thrust upon us?

Dr. Dan Lawson, Associate Vice President at Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio and former church pastor, deeply engaged our congregation last Sunday with his personal story of battling leukemia. Dan experienced numerous “turn on a dime” moments due to the complexities of the disease and the obstacles it imposed.

Yet, at each twist and turn of the cancer attack Dan faithfully prayed to “Jesus, his friend.” Dan told us of his heart’s cries, noting that with each lament, God provided. With each provision Dan declared, “Oh, there you are Jesus!” He recognized His presence in the most tenuous of times.

Not surprisingly, my friends in this story join with Dan in his exclamation. They testify that His nearness is palpable.

Because each turn, as painful as it may be, is not a turn away.







Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2003. Reproduced with permission.

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