Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Is it just me, or are the times a-changin'?

Times They Are A-changin'
It hit me again this morning. That feeling that somehow, when I wasn't paying attention, time had continued to march on.

The changing of the seasons here in the Okanagan Valley, as the leaves turn vibrant colours in a final act of stubborn defiance against the coming winter, perhaps?
Or maybe it was when I was painting the gable on our roof, to complete our weekend project of repainting the exterior of the house.

When I was young and indestructible, things like heights, ladders, scaffolding, or taking ridiculously stupid risks while rock-climbing, all seemed laughably irrelevant. Today, as the suddenly cold fall wind tugged insistently at me as I applied the last bits of paint to the gable, I realized I had become much more aware of things such as, for example, gravity.

Whenever I'm perched precariously above the ground these days, there is this one vivid memory that keeps coming to mind...

SMART climbers use rope
For the record, it's nothing like the movies. My life didn't flash before my eyes. Everything didn't suddenly go into slow-motion. There just a sudden, sharp crack as I leaped sideways from one perch to the next.

Everything went black and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled awkwardly in a puddle of my own blood, spitting out pieces of my teeth.

Which is why, they say, people who climb without ropes are an accident waiting to happen. (I didn't even fall very far.)

And one fractured arm, a badly sprained ankle, numerous capped teeth (exposed roots are exquisite but not in a good way), a fair number of stitches, and a handful of Advil later, things were looking up.

"Don't worry," my doctor, friend, and fellow youth group leader told me, after suturing my skull back together, "your hair will cover the scar." And it did.

For a few years. (Another marker of time's passage, but I don't want to talk about it).

So what did I learn from the experience?
  1. Well, to state the obvious: gravity hasn't changed, but my appreciation for its effect was greatly enhanced.

  2. Life can change in an instant. That, also, has always been true. But I was now more aware that it applied to me, not just to 'other' people.

  3. Stupid risks will always be stupid, even if "nothing happens". Smarten up.

    And last but not least,
  4. When it comes to life, there are risks worth taking, challenges worthy of our time and energy, and 'playing it safe' is not the answer. Knowing the difference between a stupid risk, and something that God is truly calling you to, might be helpful.
Our house-painting project is done, and I made it back down off the roof requiring no new stitches, and with the same number of teeth. I'm not sure if the times are a-changin' (any more than they already were). But I think I have.
Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. (Psalm 39:4)
Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. (Psalm 71:17-18)


  1. You're such a good writer - I can't wait to read your new book

  2. Good post Rob. I used to make a living climbing ladders and hanging of the end of rooftops and gable ends. One time my ladder gave way and I had to quickly grab the end of a small gable and swing my way down by grabbing on to edges of house and siding and scaffolding like a monkey to help break my fall. I landed alright, laughed it off and kept working. I was about 32 years old. Young enough to be cocky about it. What a doofus!

    Last year I tried to climb some scaffolding to paint our house. I got halfway up when I came to the same conclusions.. gravity and frailty of bone are both working against me. I hired a painting company.