Five years ago today I set out on my life’s second-greatest adventure. The first is getting married, in case you didn’t figure that out on your own. But on August 2, 2006, I left my college town and home of four years, Carbondale, Illinois, for Seattle, Washington.
It’s a pretty big deal to me that I’m here at all. I could bore you for a long time and discuss how there was a time when I had so much uncertainty about my future that I was kind of afraid I’d end up in some small Illinois town for the rest of my life. (No hate if that’s where you are and prefer it–it’s just that I really didn’t). But that wasn’t what God had for me–turns out I just had to listen to him and take some risks.
What’s interesting is how I ended up being here in the first place. I sometimes wonder if there were a single, seemingly trivial event or action in my past that set me on the path to not only moving to Seattle, but getting married to my wife. For a while I thought it might have been if I’d not heard punk rock in the summer of 1995 . . . but I might have heard it and loved it at a later time. Or maybe if I’d gotten a car other than my Mazda 626 in January 2002 . . . but who knows what car I would have ended up with otherwise? It all seems like I was headed this way no matter what–but the other day a memory struck me and I realized that my entire present hinged on a single moment of laziness and apathy over thirteen years ago.
Early in the summer 1998 I was at Lincoln Land Community College taking a series of placement tests so I could get signed up for classes. I wrote an essay and did some basic math and answered some science questions and probably some on history. The last test I had to do was algebra. Well, I was kind of tired of taking tests, you see. I had an unlimited amount of time for each question presented to me by the computer, and I had the option to re-do any question before completing the test, and I may have even been told if I got an answer right or wrong when I submitted it. The point is that this should have been an easy test for anyone that knows how to do algebra (which I did). But I was bored and feeling lazy and wanted to get home to probably play video games or something, so I just selected random answers for the last two-thirds of the questions. I got most, if not all, of those wrong.
The result of this act of impatience and laziness was monumental.
I was given a class schedule of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., no breaks. I was placed in a zero-credit math class due to my performance on that assessment test. The math class was at 11. In this math class, I became better acquainted with a guy named Aaron, who was the saxophone player in a local, Christian ska band. Within a week or two, I also met a guy nicknamed “Skippy,” who I got to know that semester as well.
Well Aaron asked Skippy and I if we wanted to play in a swing band he was trying to start up. Skip also played saxophone, and trombone was my primary instrument at the time. We both said yes. By the end of that semester, the band we formed had dissolved but a strong friendship between Skip and myself had formed–so strong that my circle of friends had almost completely changed by that point from what it was the previous summer (high school friends, mostly) to people I met through Skip or people I met at college, along with Skip. Point being, my social life, interests, and activities after that semester would be shaped because I was friends with him.
Around nine or ten months after that band fell apart, Skip borrowed a bass guitar from a mutual friend and started playing. He called me on his first night with it and said, “We’re starting a punk band.” I had been playing a little bit of guitar for a few months and was sure I could handle power chords in punk songs, so I claimed guitar and vocals for myself, and then mentioned another friend of mine to Skip that played guitar that could join us (named Aaron, but not the Aaron from before). The three of us started the band the fall of 1999, had a drummer by early 2000, and the band came apart early 2001. But the four of us in the group were still good friends.
So good, in fact, that Aaron and Skip simultaneously decided to attend Southern Illinois University at Carbondale starting the spring semester of 2002, and they made sure they were roommates. When the fall semester of 2002 came around, it was my time to move on to a University. I had picked SIUC precisely because Aaron and Skip were already going there. I originally wanted to go any place OTHER than SIUC. Carbondale is next to Murphysboro, which is where my dad’s entire family lives. Sure, I love all of them, but I originally wanted to attend school in a place I wasn’t familiar with and had no connections to. To start fresh. However, being the social person I am, of course I followed friends when that opportunity presented itself. And almost as if to secure my decision, I had some serious money-for-school problems arise by the summer of 2002, so it was a bonus that I had grandparents and extended family that lived in the area. But the decision to attend SIUC began with my friends going there, and the fact that I still got to go despite money issues was secured by the fact that I had family in the area.
Well, the fall semester started and–skipping the gory details–my friendships with Aaron and Skip didn’t survive the first few weeks of school. It was a tumultuous four months with lots of uncertainty, but by the start of 2003’s spring semester, I was fully involved with a local church in Carbondale now called “The Vine.”
By the next fall semester (2003, still), I had met a pretty young lady at my church named Dona, and we started becoming friends. Right about the same time, the lead pastor of The Vine announced he felt led by God to start a new church in Seattle. By the following summer, he and a large team of people from our church moved to the Pacific Northwest. Not quite a year-and-a-half later, I felt strong conviction from God to move to Seattle, too, and be part of that church. As I said before, I moved on August 2, 2006 and arrived 2 days later.
Nearly eleven months later, under almost entirely independent circumstances, Dona also moved to Seattle. We were engaged just over a year later and married two-and-a-half months after that.
So there you have it. I am married to the woman of my dreams and live in Seattle all because I was lazy one summer day at a community college and didn’t feel like finishing an un-timed test. Had I finished that test honestly, I guarantee I would have passed it. I knew algebra well enough to get most of them right, and those placement tests weren’t designed to be extremely harsh. Therefore I wouldn’t have had any reason to get to know (the first) Aaron any better, and wouldn’t have met Skippy under the same circumstances, if at all, and wouldn’t have been close enough to Skip to be the first person he called when he wanted to start a band. Therefore Skip and (the second) Aaron would very likely not have met and wouldn’t have been roommates at SIU, an arrangement that provided encouragement for me to follow them there. Had I not ended up in Carbondale, I would have not started attending Vine, thus not being around for, knowing of, or even caring about the church plant in Seattle. And I submit to be the most important: I would I have met my wife. Funny how that works.
Oh, sure, you could argue that all of that stuff would have happened one way or another because it was God’s plan, and I would agree . . . but it’s fun to look at it this way, and to make a case about laziness having a positive impact on someone’s life.