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DISCOVER A SECRETLY INCREDIBLE LIFE IN AN ORDINARY WORLD
By BOB GOFF
Copyright © 2012 Bob Goff
All right reserved.
Chapter One I'M WITH YOU
I used to want to fix people, but now I just want to be with them.
When I was in high school, I met a guy named Randy. Randy had three things I didn't have: a Triumph motorcycle, a beard, and a girlfriend. It just didn't seem fair. I wanted all three in ascending order. I asked around and found out Randy didn't even go to the high school; he just hung out there. I had heard about guys like that and figured I should keep my distance, so I did. Later, I heard that Randy was a Christian and worked with an outfit called Young Life. I didn't know much about any of that stuff, but it helped explain the beard and made it okay that he was hanging out at the high school, I guess. Randy never offered me a ride on his motorcycle, but he tried to engage me in discussions about Jesus. I kept him at arm's length, but that didn't seem to chill his interest in finding out who I was and what I was about. I figured maybe he didn't know anyone his age, so we eventually became friends.
I was a lousy student and found out I could take a test to get a certificate that was the equivalent to a high school diploma. I couldn't figure out how to sign up for the test, though, which on reflection was a pretty good indicator that I should stay in high school. My plan was to move to Yosemite and spend my days climbing the massive granite cliffs. At six feet four inches and two hundred and twenty pounds, I didn't really have a rock climber's build. I wonder what made me think there was a rock climber in me? When you are in high school, you don't give much thought to what you can't do. For most people, that gets learned later, and for still fewer, gets unlearned for the rest of life.
At the beginning of my junior year, I decided it was time to leave high school and make the move to Yosemite. I had a down vest, two red bandanas, a pair of rock climbing shoes, seventy-five dollars, and a VW Bug. What else did I need? I'd find work in the valley and spend my off-time in the mountains. More out of courtesy than anything, I swung by Randy's house first thing on a Sunday morning to say good-bye and to let him know I was leaving. I knocked on the door and after a long couple of minutes Randy answered. He was groggy and bedheaded—I had obviously woken him.
I gave him the rundown on what I was doing. All the while Randy stood patiently in the doorway trying his best to suppress a puzzled expression.
"You're leaving soon?" he asked when I had finished.
"Yeah, right now, actually," I said as I straightened my back and barreled my chest to show I meant business. "Look, Randy, it's time for me to get out of here. I just came by to thank you for hanging out with me and being a great friend."
Randy kept his earnest and concerned face, but he didn't say a word.
"Oh, hey," I inserted, "will you tell your girlfriend goodbye for me too, you know, when you see her next?" Again, no words from Randy. He had this weird, faraway look on his face like he was looking right through me. He snapped back into our conversation.
"Hey, Bob, would you wait here for a second while I check something out?"
"No sweat, Randy." I had nothing but time now; what did I care?
Randy disappeared for a few minutes into the house while I stood awkwardly on his porch with my hands in my pockets. When he came back to the door, he had a tattered backpack hanging over his shoulder by one frayed strap and a sleeping bag under his other arm. He was focused and direct. All he said was this: "Bob, I'm with you."
Something in his words rang right through me. He didn't lecture me about how I was blowing it and throwing opportunities away by leaving high school. He didn't tell me I was a fool and that my idea would fall off the tracks on the way to the launchpad. He didn't tell me I would surely crater even if I did briefly lift off. He was resolute, unequivocal, and had no agenda. He was with me.
Despite the kind gesture, it was pretty odd to think he wanted to come along.
"Um, sure, I guess," I said halfheartedly. "You sure?"
"Yeah, Bob, I'm in. If you wouldn't mind, what if I caught a ride with you?" Randy stood with a determined look.
"So, let me get this straight. You want to drive to Yosemite with me—right now?"
"Yep, that's right. I can find my way back after we get there and you get settled in."
I'm not sure why I accepted Randy's generous self-invitation. I guess it's because it caught me totally off guard. No one had ever expressed an interest in me like that before.
"Sure ...," I stammered as we both stood awkwardly on his stoop. "Uh, I guess we should get going then."
And with that, Randy closed the door to his little house and we walked side by side to my VW Bug. He plopped into the passenger seat and threw his stuff on top of mine on the backseat.
We got to Yosemite before nightfall, and it occurred to me for the first time we had no place to stay. We had a couple of sleeping bags, no tent, and very little money, so we snuck in through the back of a platform tent set up at one of the pay-per-night campsites. We slept toward the back so we could make our escape if an upstanding tent-renter showed up for the night. Fortunately no one came, and the next morning we woke up to a chilly but glorious morning in Yosemite Valley. To the north of us, El Capitan soared three thousand feet straight up like a huge granite soldier. Half Dome dominated the landscape to the east. These were my companions; this was my cathedral. I was in the valleywide living room of my new home. Now it was time to get a job and settle in. I rolled over in my sleeping bag, thinking about how great it was to have Randy with me. I was a little nervous but also excited about my newfound freedom. I was a man now. I felt my chin for any sign of whiskers. Nothing yet, but I shaved anyway, just in case.
Randy and I dusted off the stiffness that comes with tent camping and went to the Camp Curry company cafeteria. I thought I could get a job flipping pancakes in the mornings, which would leave the rest of the day to climb. I finished the job application in front of the manager, handed it to him, and he gave it right back, sternly shaking his head no. He didn't even pretend to be interested, but I was secretly thankful he at least humored me enough to let me apply.
No matter. Undaunted, I went to one of the rock climbing outfitters with a storefront in the valley. I told them I'd do whatever they needed. I was sure that what I lacked in experience I could make up for by what I lacked in maturity or raw intelligence. They said that they didn't have any work for me either and that jobs were tight and almost impossible to get in the valley. I walked out of the store discouraged and looked at Randy, who was leaning against the VW. Rather than feeding my discouragement or saying "I told you so," Randy fed my soul with words of truth and perspective.
"Bob, you can do this thing if you want. You have the stuff it takes to pull it off. These guys don't know what they're missing. Let's try a few more places."
And then, just like he had said the day before on his porch, Randy reiterated his statement: "Either way, Bob, I'm with you." His words gave me tremendous comfort.
I applied at nearly every business in the valley and struck out every time. There were simply no jobs available and no hope of one opening up soon.
The evening approached as the sun sank low in the hills. It was one of those sunsets displaying the kinds of vibrant colors that would have made a painter's canvas look overambitious. But I was still heartened: this sunset was real, I was in Yosemite, my friend was with me, and I still had a shot at my dream.
Randy and I headed back to the campsite and snuck into the same tent we had commandeered the night before. I didn't sleep well or long as I sorted through my very short list of options. There was no work, I had no money, I was a high school dropout, Randy snored, and I had to go to the bathroom. That about covered my list of problems from least to greatest.
The next morning came with a crispness that only fueled my anxiety. Randy stirred next to me in his sleeping bag, gave a couple phlegm-filled coughs, and said in a much-too-cheery voice, "Let's go climb some rocks!" We headed to the foot of one of the monolith cliffs and bouldered for a couple of hours, talking trash to each other about who was the better climber. By midday, we headed back to the valley to see if any businesses had miraculously decided to expand their operations overnight. It felt like the shop owners had quietly met somewhere when they learned that I was arriving in the valley and were conspiring against me to dash my dreams. The same rocks I had come to climb were now beginning to look like barricades. I applied at the remaining small storefronts I hadn't tried the day before. Do I even need to waste my breath to tell you what happened?
Randy and I sat on the front bumper of my VW Bug and leaned back against its flimsy and slightly rusted hood that buckled slightly under our weight. The sun was getting low in the valley again, and the granite cliffs I'd hoped to count as neighbors were casting long, dark shadows on the ground, each of the deepening shadows pointing toward the road exiting the valley.
I only had a few bucks left after buying gas, and Randy offered to spring for dinner. As we walked back out to the car after eating, I turned to Randy and said, "You know, Randy, you've been great coming with me and everything, but it looks like I'm striking out. I think what I'll do is head back and finish up high school." After a short pause, Randy said again what had become a comfort to me throughout the trip: "Man, whatever you decide, just know that either way I'm with you, Bob."
Randy had been with me, and I could tell that he was "with me" in spirit as much as with his presence. He was committed to me and he believed in me. I wasn't a project; I was his friend. I wondered if maybe all Christians operated this way. I didn't think so, because most of them I had met up until that time were kind of wimpy and seemed to have more opinions about what or who they were against than who they were for. Without much more discussion, Randy and I exchanged a silent look and a nod, which meant we were done. Without a word spoken, I hopped in the driver's seat of the car, Randy hopped in the passenger seat, and we followed the path cast from the long shadows the day before. I was going back.
We didn't talk much as we left Yosemite Valley or for much of the way home, for that matter. A dream of mine had just checked into hospice, and Randy was sensitive enough to know I needed some margin to think. We drove for five or six quiet hours. Every once in a while, Randy would check on me in his confident and upbeat voice. "Hey, how are you doing, Bob?"
We pulled down some familiar streets and into Randy's driveway. There was another car in the drive next to Randy's that looked like his girlfriend's. She visited often. We walked up to the front door and he opened it. I walked in behind Randy uninvited, but somehow I still felt welcome. On the floor, I noticed a stack of plates and some wrapping paper, a coffeemaker, some glasses. On the couch there was a microwave half in a box. I didn't understand at first. Had Randy just had a birthday? Was it his girlfriend's? A microwave seemed like a weird way to celebrate someone's arrival into the world. I knew Randy wasn't moving because there wouldn't be wrapping paper. Then, from around the corner, the other half of this couple bounded out and threw her arms around Randy. "Welcome home, honey." Then the nickel dropped.
I felt both sick and choked up in an instant. I realized that these were wedding presents on the floor. Randy and his girlfriend had just gotten married. When I had knocked on Randy's door on that Sunday morning, Randy didn't see just a high school kid who had disrupted the beginning of his marriage. He saw a kid who was about to jump the tracks. Instead of spending the early days of his marriage with his bride, he spent it with me, sneaking into the back of a tent.
Why? It was because Randy loved me. He saw the need and he did something about it. He didn't just say he was for me or with me. He was actually present with me.
What I learned from Randy changed my view permanently about what it meant to have a friendship with Jesus. I learned that faith isn't about knowing all of the right stuff or obeying a list of rules. It's something more, something more costly because it involves being present and making a sacrifice. Perhaps that's why Jesus is sometimes called Immanuel—"God with us." I think that's what God had in mind, for Jesus to be present, to just be with us. It's also what He has in mind for us when it comes to other people.
The world can make you think that love can be picked up at a garage sale or enveloped in a Hallmark card. But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It's a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright. What I learned from Randy about the brand of love Jesus offers is that it's more about presence than undertaking a project. It's a brand of love that doesn't just think about good things, or agree with them, or talk about them. What I learned from Randy reinforced the simple truth that continues to weave itself into the tapestry of every great story:
Chapter Two SNIPER FIRE
I used to think I had to act a certain way to follow God, but now I know God doesn't want us to be typical.
I heard about Jesus for the first time when I was in high school from a guy named Doug, who I used to shoot BB guns with. We would go out in the woods by a reservoir and shoot at cans and old car fenders. Neither of us was a very good shot and we rarely hit what we aimed for, so we just called whatever we hit the target. There are a lot of people who still do that. Being in the woods and armed makes a fifteen-year-old feel like he has chest hair. The prospect of losing an eye also kept us coming back. It's not necessarily a guy thing—well, actually, yes. It's a guy thing.
One day, Doug's BB gun broke and he got a pellet gun. I wanted to have a pellet gun too, but I couldn't find someone to hook me up with one, so I kept using my old gun I got when I was eight years old. There was a big difference between Doug's legit pellet gun and my crummy BB gun. My gun didn't shoot very far or very well. After it was cocked once, it could almost shoot across the room. That is, unless a fan was on, then only about half that distance. It did have a slot where you could put a couple of drops of oil that would turn into a little puff of blue smoke when you pulled the trigger. Despite this fun little feature, mine was no match for Doug's gun, and we both knew it. Doug's pellet gun shot like a real gun too. He could pump it up what seemed like an unlimited number of times, and we imagined it could pierce steel. He put a huge scope on the barrel and then put camouflage on the gun, mostly made of old socks painted green and some weeds. It was an awesome piece of firepower compared to my Daisy BB gun, even though mine had blue smoke and his didn't. I thought I'd save up for a pellet gun like Doug's and maybe a rifle rack too. Yes, definitely a rifle rack.
One lazy afternoon, Doug and I were walking side by side along a trail in the woods. I was looking for new cans to shoot or ones to finish off we'd only wounded the week before. Suddenly I noticed Doug wasn't at my side any longer. I looked to the left and right, but Doug was nowhere to be found. When I looked behind me, however, I saw the muzzle of Doug's pellet gun pointing at me from behind a tree, half a green sock hanging from the scope, which was up to his eye. I had become the next tin can, and I did what any hardened gunslinger would do—I ran. As I ran, I cocked my Daisy BB gun with the blue smoke and just over the rise in the hill I turned to defend myself. But before I could get a round off, Doug pulled his trigger and shot me right in the belly.
Doug must have pumped up his gun twenty times or more, because I fell to my knees, looked down, and there was a hole and some blood where the pellet went through my shirt and inside of me. We were both pretty surprised and wonderfully amazed at the same time. We had just become one of those stories you hear about. Doug prayed for me and told me not to walk toward the light. I told Doug he could have my bicycle if I didn't make it. We put gum and leaves over the hole to stop the bleeding and made our way back to Doug's bedroom to get some tweezers and get the pellet out. We splashed some Scope mouthwash on the hole to clean it, then dug in with the tweezers and got the pellet. He awarded me a purple heart, I gave him a sniper medal, and we vowed to go back and shoot at each other as often as we could.
Excerpted from LOVE DOES by BOB GOFF Copyright © 2012 by Bob Goff. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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