How I Almost Invented the Zip-Line and Other Bad Decisions

How I saw myself

“Let’s tie a rope from the top of this cliff down to that tree and slide down,” I said standing atop a thirty foot cliff. I was ten years-old and full of myself, being one of the older and cooler kids in our gang, and also having just been named the starting pitcher of my Pee Wee baseball team.

“Great idea,” said Tim, who was slightly older and, in reality, a lot cooler because it was his rope.

I tossed Tim’s rope down and secured the top to a large rock. Tim tied the other end to a tree. We then cut a short piece off the end to loop over the zip-line.

“It was my idea so I go first,” I said.

“It’s my rope.”

“I go second then.” We tied a safety rope around Tim’s waist and slowly lowered him down.

“I’m going again. Without the safety rope,” Tim said when he came back up. He zipped down the second time laughing and shouting.

Finally my turn came. I sat on the edge of the cliff with my legs dangling over. My brother and a tall kid looked up at me. Fear turned my mouth desert dry.

“Go! Or are you chicken?” Tim chided.

I launched myself into thin air. Unfortunately, Tim, not being a Boy Scout, was not trained in knots. The bottom knot came untied and I fell straight down, landing standing up, on my left leg. I felt and heard it snap. The tall kid took off running for home.

“I broke my leg,” I whined when everyone gathered around me.

“You did not.”

I pointed to my left foot which was hanging sideways on my leg. Both bones, compound fracture, end of my baseball career. I’ve regretted that day, especially years later when I realized I almost invented the zip-line.

Unfortunately, jumping off that cliff was not my worst decision. I’v made many more. So many that at times I’ve been afraid to make one at all. I’ve frozen at the top of the cliff, so to speak.

My Top Six Worst Decisions:

6. Dropping out of high school for a job at Gordon’s Greenhouse that paid $1.75 an hour.

5. Climbing to the top of a glacier to see if “Those really are bear tracks going in that cave.”

4. Moving from the Mile High City, gateway to the Colorado Rockies, to Bloomington, ILL, popcorn capital of the mid-west.

3. Breaking up with my future wife, Dee Dee, when I was in the 8th grade.

2. Trusting Tim’s meager knot tying skills.

1. Buying a used Chevy Citation. For the sticker price, without bartering.

I have good reason to not trust Tim or myself. But I’ve made some good decisions too. Or more correctly, just as not all that glitters is gold, so too, not all that begins daft ends dark.

My Top Five Best Decisions:

5. Dropping out of high school for a job at Gordon’s Greenhouse that paid $1.75 an hour. I’ve seldom quit anything since and have been married 33 years and now have a doctoral degree.

4. Climbing to the top of a glacier to see if “Those really are bear tracks going in that cave.” That’s just really a great story I’ll tell another time.

3. Moving from the Mile High City, gateway to the Colorado Rockies, to Bloomington, ILL, popcorn capital of the mid-west. My youngest daughter was born, my oldest daughter met an incredible man and married him, and I am grandfather to the two best grandkids in the world to name a few unexpected outcomes of that move.

2. Trusting Tim’s meager knot tying skills. I now know that scars, physical and emotional, are–at the same time–the most tender and tough parts of me. And if I had become rich and famous because I invented the zip-line, I would not have become a pastor.

1.  Finally marrying Dee Dee. You knew that was coming. Plus, there is nothing even God can do with a used Chevy Citation.

Does Life Just Work Out for the Best?

But this is not simply a case of life “working out for the best.” Nor is it proof “everything has a reason.”


Shallow platitudes and blind fate had no hand in my worst decisions becoming my best. This was not a mere learning my lesson. I still don’t trust ropes or philosophies tied by the mere hands of man. Only God can bring beauty from ashes and joy from weeping and give even suffering a reason. As I look back, I see God’s hand, gently–or not so gently–redirecting my poorly chosen paths. And because of that, I (more often now) face decisions–and life generally–boldly, fearlessly. Because this turning of worst to best is the powerful work of God’s perfect love. It’s called redemption. And that is where I place my trust and base my decisions.

Eugene C. Scott decided to get up this morning. That was either a good or bad decision depending. He also believes living spiritually means living fearlessly. You can join the Living Spiritually community by clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.


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6 responses to “How I Almost Invented the Zip-Line and Other Bad Decisions

  1. Georgie-ann

    “Have fear and doubt come against your mind?
    Has your faith been sorely tried?
    Lift up your eyes, here cometh your help,
    It is Jesus, for you He has died …

    So, Rise and be healed! in the name of Jesus!
    Let faith arise in your soul!
    Rise and be healed! in the name of Jesus!
    He will touch you and make your life whole!”

    Great great song! Great message!

    God desires to capture our attention and keep it for our whole lives through. Some of our unwitting early “decisions” and experiences stand out in “stark contrast” to the paths we’ve subsequently chosen, under the influence of better guidance, a healthy respect for “accident” and the dangers of not-praying before moving out on a venture,… and even then, it still pays to do your research,… and even then, it pays to pray some more,… “stop, look & listen” never gets old!

    When I hear your stories, or think back to myself, it’s as if we begin our first tentative life experiences so “naked” and vulnerable, naive, unclothed with the protective shield of wisdom, which we will later acquire through surviving the “rough patches”,… and the fact that we actually do survive some of these things, is a testimony that God has been there, even in the back seat, all the time watching over us,… (or maybe a mother’s or grandmother’s prayers!),…

    Job 1:21 ” … ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.'”

    I can remember being absolutely fascinated, at 16 years of age, that somehow or other I could actually drive the big boat of a car we had down the narrow downtown streets of our town, and actually “miss” running into and scraping all the others alongside of me,… It was my first conscious feeling of being in the presence of something absolutely “miraculous!”,… How did I DO that???,… I just couldn’t believe I was missing all these other cars by what seemed like half an inch sometimes,… and on my own, I decided then and there, that there really must be angels handling a lot of the downtown traffic and driving going on,… of course, now I “just usually take it all for granted,”… dulled, life-worn, blase adult that I’ve become,… it’s exciting to look back, isn’t it?,…

    Somewhere in Scripture we are told to look back and remember where we have come from, to appreciate and keep our current blessings in perspective, as well as our attitudes toward others,… but I couldn’t find the reference I was looking for,… it’s true anyway,…

    Glad you “made it”/survived your “reckless” youth, Dr. Oogene! (-:

    • Georgie-ann:

      It is a testimony to God that we survive and also that he brings good (and better) out of them. I’m glad I survived too. Yes, it is exciting to look back. I have few regrets and that because of God. That is a beautiful song. Wish I could hear the music.

      • Georgie-ann

        we’ll see how this does,… I googled it,…

        Have fear and doubt come against your mind
        Has your faith been sorely tried
        Lift up your eyes here cometh your help
        It is Jesus for you He has died

        Rise and be healed in the name of Jesus
        Let faith arise in your soul
        Rise and be healed inthe name of Jesus
        He will cleanse and make you whole

        If by faith you reach out to Him
        He will meet your every need
        He will respond to the cry of your heart
        He will touch you and set you free

  2. Georgie-ann

    btw,… while I was listening to this, my little finger which had been jammed from carrying some music equipment which was too heavy for me — you guessed it! — it was HEALED!,… just like that!,… and I’ve been soaking & stretching it & whatever for a month & a half!,… and now it’s perfect! Praise be to God!!!!! (-:

    I needed that!!

  3. Georgie-ann

    I don’t when the song was written, but it was way before Benny Hinn was singing it in his Crusades,… definitely Oral Roberts had it,… I tried to find a version that was the way I remember it,… of the choices these were the best,… plus I loved the Crusade and translation influence,…

  4. Georgie-ann

    edit (grumble grumble): I don’t know when …

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