Posted by: Don Linnen | 30 September 2013


Sometimes you take a hit that knocks the wind out of you. Sometimes it’s self induced. That makes a bad moment even worse.

Early in June I fell off my bike. Falling from a dead stop is better than falling at 30 miles an hour, but still – it hurt. I was rolling slowly and stopped to give a homeless guy directions to the nearest train station.

My normal sequence during a stop is to unlock a shoe from the pedal and lean on that foot. This time my left shoe came loose as I leaned to my right – with the right shoe firmly attached to the right pedal. In the 2.1 seconds of this slo mo fall, three thoughts occurred:

  • 0.0 – 0.8 seconds: Hmmm – somethin’s not right.
  • 0.8 – 1.5 seconds: I can save this.
  • 1.5 – 2.1 seconds: This is gonna hurt.

Other than new strawberries for my elbow and knee, the biggest blow was to my ego – and even that wasn’t too bad. I have done bike stupid before. But I was surprised at how long it took me to recover from a very minor fall. It took nearly five minutes to compose myself. I was winded.

Early this month, it happened again. The day after Labor Day I sat for a certification exam to become a Certified Fund Raising Executive ( CFRE ). After six years of experience in the field, a lengthy and expensive application process, a two-day review course, and many nights and weekends of study, I answered 200 multiple-choice questions during four hours in a closely-monitored test environment.

Despite nerves and a shaky start, by the end of the test I felt good. I entertained visions of teaching the review course next year. At the end of the exam, I hit the submit button and waited ages for the preliminary results. In less than a minute, I had a summary that was hard to comprehend. I failed the test. I was not good enough. I was winded.

It was worse than a physical blow. I left the testing center baffled – but faked it like I was cool. It took much longer than five minutes to regain my composure.

I was ready for the exam. I knew my stuff. But according to the CFRE test gods, my answers did not agree with theirs. The disappointment in myself was the deepest I’d felt in years.

My plan to be a fundraising stud was not to be. Not this year.

Once again I’m reminded that my plan is not always His plan. I start each morning with a few quiet minutes devoted to reading and praying. That time is invaluable. The two days immediately following the exam, I was reminded:

“The loud shout of steadfast faith is the exact opposite of the groans of wavering faith and the complaints of discouraged hearts.” – from Streams in the Desert

“And Patience was willing to wait.” – from Pilgrim’s Progress

Where do I go from here? Do I spend more money to retake a test that may be flawed? Can my flawed brain retake a perfectly reasonable test? Do I study something different or differently? Is it worth the time? Is it really important? And on. And on. Too many nebulous questions. Too few clear answers.

I’m doubting myself, questioning my motives.  I’m troubled.

But I’m still standing on the Rock of my salvation. It’s always there. It’s steady when I’m not. It grounds me in the storm. It lifts me when the waters rise. It supports me when I’m winded.

This afternoon, the official results arrived in the mail. A perfect score is 800. A passing score is 500. I scored 490.

This time I wasn’t winded.

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