I took this picture while changing out the bearings on my skateboard. My buddy Justin had given me some new ones since mine were getting stiff. Mei was having so much fun stacking the old bearings up in neat little piles there on the dining room floor. A few days after this I would be in the hospital. Justin would sit in a lone chair across the room. We’d laugh and tell jokes in light of the circumstance. Overall it was a pretty good day.
I used to skate in high school and college but if I’m telling the truth, I was never very good. I was always a better surfer and even that I’m not so great at. At least when you fall off of a surfboard you generally don’t crack your head open.
“Aren’t you too old to be on a skateboard?”
That’s the question I get asked the most when I tell the story. I suppose they’re right. At some point I was feeling a bit low in regards to my situation after the fall. I told my friend Mark that I might regret the decision I had made to give it a try. You know, due to the physical pain and the bills that came with the damage. He literally told me to “shut the f*** up”. He told me I should never regret putting myself out there and doing something. “At least you tried,” he said.
I decided to go skating cause I wanted to hang out with Justin. Not that he talked me into it or anything. Aly and I have met some really great people in life and this was me just wanting to hang out. Justin liked to skate so this was a great way for us to bond over something. I knew I would be a bit rusty and expected to head home with some scrapes or bruises.
We were bombing hills in a nice neighborhood off of Scenic Hwy. I picked up some good speed and failed to turn fast enough. The result was a broken wrist and five stitches in my head. Justin and his wife Shelly later went and found the reddish smear I left on the asphalt.
Despite the mess, I still got to spend the day with my friend. Not that nearly killing myself was the best way to go about that. We sat in the ER and talked about life, marriage, and Jesus. Tragedy brings people together in unique ways and this was our shared tragedy. When I came to, lying in the street, I heard Justin screaming “Oh God” over and over as he ran down the hill. He’s a good friend.
All of this happened in tandem with an issue I have been thinking about for a while now. I’ve been asking myself if I’m meeting my potential in life. Also, am I happy in the profession that I’ve chosen. Is this what I should be doing with my life? At what point do you cease to be a person with great potential and become the guy who squandered it? There is an old song by Craig’s Brother called Potential that says:
You could be the best there ever was
But nothing’s gained when nothing’s shared
Potential shines so bright when never dared
There’s more to it than that but you get the idea. I loved this song when I was a kid and never wanted to be the guy it was about. Mr. Most Likely to Succeed but never did. The guy who never took a chance on anything.
Another friend of mine, Doug, literally wrote a book about Legacy. (It’s called White Picket Fences and it’s beautiful). Yet, even after reading his thoughtful words I find myself no closer to answering questions of meaning and purpose in my own life. From a spiritual perspective, I find it difficult to measure the success of my existence. Churches measure success by counting filled seats and baptisms. But how do you quantify love or spiritual growth? If I never convince another person that they love Jesus as much as I do does that make me a failure? If my job consists of lining the pockets of executives in another part of the world does that make my life without meaning?
When I asked my brother Jason some similar questions about leaving a worthwhile legacy, his response was very poetic. He said, ”if you learn to listen [to God] your legacy will craft itself.” While I love this thought, I find myself asking new questions, wondering how I’ll know when God is actually speaking to me. Most of the time I feel like I’m several steps behind where God is trying to lead me. Like a child chasing after mom and dad in the airport trying not to miss a flight. That’s how Kevin McCallister ended up in New York. In hindsight, I’ve mostly ended up where I think God has been leading me my whole life. How I arrived at each of those places has always seemed haphazard at best.
If there is one thing I feel certain about how God generally works, it’s that He hardly does what we expect Him to do. Even Jesus was not what people thought he would or should be. God thrives in the places we least expect. That’s why people say He “works in mysterious ways”. So when looking at God’s purpose for our lives, I highly doubt it involves the typical 5-year plan.
So, what does this have to do with skateboarding?
I was having a beer with Mark and a couple of other friends at a small sidewalk table downtown when I told him this story and about my struggles. He looked intently at me and asked me the same question I had already asked him. “What does it mean to leave a legacy that is reflective of God’s purpose in your life?”
I told him that there is no way I could have predicted my blood on the road. Sure, I could have guessed that I would get hurt. But the exact pattern to which the red had stained the street was not something I could have planned or replicated. Furthermore, the only reason I ended up lying there was that I had tried to follow God’s direction and be intentional about my relationships. When God says “go” we go. Even if it means we end up at the bottom of the sea or lying in a hospital bed. And now, every time someone sees that blood stain on the ground they will know that something happened there. Something real.
It’s the same with the legacy that we leave behind. You can’t predict what God is going to do with the choices that we make. The only thing we can really be sure of is that God has a knack for making beautiful things out of our messes. And what we leave behind is a permanent mark made from the very thing that gives us life. That mark in turn tells a story. It’s messy, it’s real, and there is a significant cost. We just have to have the courage to follow God’s lead, even if it is only in the moment.
The other question I keep getting asked is, “I bet you won’t be getting on a skateboard again anytime soon, huh?” The truth is, if I need to then I will. See, I plan to continue taking risks if it means discovering God’s purpose for my life. Even if it means putting myself emotionally in harm’s way. I value the conversation Justin and I had in that hospital room, despite the cost that brought us there. The cost adds to the value. My hope is that I will continue to be intentional with my life. And hopefully, I’ll leave a few marks along the way.