Lessons from falling off a roof

I’m about to tell you a story from the other day – a totally bozo move that I made. And you don’t need to feel compelled to inform me of how stupid, dangerous, or absent-minded it was. I know. You also don’t need to remind me of how thankful I should be that it wasn’t more serious. I know…really, I know.

I’m aware of how dumb what I’m about to tell you was and how thankful I should be that it didn’t end up worse. But there is a point in sharing the story (I hope), so here it goes:

On Friday, I spent the afternoon “winterizing” the house. We have a bunch of older windows upstairs that let in a bunch of air, and in the winter that can feel drafty and cold. We had planned to replace a few of them this year, but money and time were both prioritized elsewhere, so I once again found myself at the hardware store buying the “window insulator kit” and borrowing my wife’s hair dryer to seal up the house. These things take longer than you would think! You have to take off the curtains, clean off the window, apply two-sided tape all the way around, evenly place plastic over the window, heat shrink the plastic, and then cut off the excess – ok, it doesn’t sound difficult, but trust me when I say it’s pretty time-consuming to do a bunch of these. When I got to the oldest, most beat-up window in the house, I remembered that last winter, the storm window wouldn’t shut completely and snow had gotten in between the storm and main windows. I had decided that I needed to seal up that gap somehow, and so I went to the hardware store.

Meanwhile, we had made plans to take the kids to Dave and Busters that night, and it was getting close to that time. As I drove back from the hardware store, I decided that I really wanted to get this done BEFORE we left for dinner. I had a long list of plans for Saturday and I didn’t want this project bleeding into the next day. I pulled into the driveway with my supplies from the hardware store and decided not to even go inside. I figured that if I went in, Leslie would try and convince me to leave it for tomorrow. “I’ll just do this real quick,” I said to myself.

The window I wanted to work on overlooks the front part of our garage roof. However, I keep the extension ladder behind our shed in the backyard, so I decided to go in the backyard, put the ladder up against the back of the house, and walk overtop of the roof to the front where the window is. Let me paint this picture for you. It’s now almost completely dark, it’s lightly raining, and I am wearing flat sole dress shoes. The perfect combo for safety! Regardless, I proceeded to throw the ladder up against the house (on concrete that may or may not have had wet leaves on it) and run up onto the roof.

“I’m just gonna do this real quick.” “I’m only going on the garage roof.” “I have to finish this tonight.” This was my rationale as I was up there, though even in the moment I realized that wearing those shoes and being up there in the dark didn’t feel good.

I walked up and over the peak of the garage roof and to our bedroom window. It didn’t take more than 5 minutes to do what I needed to do, but I was definitely thinking “any minute, Leslie’s going to come out here telling me we need to go. I gotta finish this quick.” And so I did – sealed up the window, and then walked quickly back to the edge of the roof. I turned around and, without even putting my hands down on the roof, I put my full weight on the first rung of the ladder. As I did, the ladder slid away and I went crashing down onto the concrete below.

Leslie came running out, asking “Are you ok!?” I actually wasn’t sure at that moment. I was laying on the ground with my leg wrapped inside the ladder, not exactly sure what happened . I had never felt that feeling of falling unexpectedly before. It happened fast, and I was a bit freaked out. I quickly tried jumping to my feet, and realized that my left leg was bleeding and ankle was really sore. Leslie brought me inside and patched me up. The gash was pretty big, and the ankle had swollen a couple times its normal size – Leslie was already worrying about whether something was broken, but all I could think was “why did I do that?” … “that was SO STUPID” … “I wish I could take that moment back.”

Thankfully, the ankle’s just a minor sprain, the cut is healing up, and the bruising will go away soon enough. It’s really no big deal now. But I couldn’t help lingering on those thoughts of regret and wishing I could have done it differently. Amazing how much clarity hindsight brings…

So my takeaway: Don’t fall off a roof – it hurts.

Ok that, and a few more…these may or may not resonate with you, but they have been with me:

Knowing better doesn’t change anything, doing better does:
I knew better. I knew that I should have changed my shoes. I knew that I shouldn’t have been up there when it was wet. I knew that I shouldn’t have been up there when it was dark. I knew better than to run up a ladder before double checking that it was set and wouldn’t slip. But I was in a hurry, and it “was just” the garage roof. But even though I knew better, I ignored what I knew and did it anyways. When a situation arises, what we know doesn’t matter – it’s what we choose to do that affects the outcome. Obviously in this instance, I chose poorly.

You can’t take it back:
No matter how bad the consequences felt or how much I wished I had done it differently, when the rubber meets the road (or in this case, the butt hits the concrete) the results are what they are. As I spent most of the next day sitting on the couch, icing my swollen ankle, I kept thinking how much of an impact that one decision had made and how I wished I could take it back. I couldn’t. And that’s always the way it is – we don’t always weigh the consequences as carefully before we make the decision, but we certainly do in hindsight.

Denying the results won’t change anything:
I tried to jump to my feet right away – it was this desire to pretend as if nothing was wrong. My ankle hurt, but rather than sit down, I tried to “walk it off.” It still hurt. I went to dinner anyways, and walked around on it, limping along, and it still hurt. When I got home, Leslie told me to ice it. I didn’t want to admit that it was swollen, but it was, and it hurt. I just wanted to wish the problem away, but denying the results didn’t change anything.

God can be gracious even when I make poor choices
My stupid move certainly came with consequences – I have bruises and my ankle tripled in size. I had to stay off my feet and waste an entire Saturday. But God was SO gracious with me.While I have to take ownership for my choices and accept the consequences, He’s in control. I could have landed on my head, could have broken bones, could have needed surgery. Instead, despite of my stupid choices, God was gracious with me.


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