There is this sensation and freedom that soaks through the whole experience. I have often found myself sitting on a bench down by the waterfront on a nice morning, coffee in my hand, board under feet, thinking "this is the end". What I mean is that I do not need that moment to be building to anything else, there is no other reward I desire from that experience than the experience itself. It is an end in and of itself.
Skating is an end. It is something that you work so that you have the freedom to do. You don't have to work very hard or save very much to be able to go for a skate. It is something that you don't get paid for, but in a way you receive a different kind of pay for it.
I love getting to places, and having people people say "wow your hair really looks wooshed back." I love the feeling of my hair wooshing back. I like the feeling of going down the hill just by my house with cars screaming past me looking a little frustrated because I am in their way, and I think to myself "I am the answer to Aucklands traffic problem!"
Sometimes skating is a "end" and sometimes it is a "means" to an end; like getting to work or a friends house. It is an interesting relationship between the "ends" and the "means" in my life. I often get them confused. I feel that other people get them confused too. Sometimes I feel I get so caught up in the "means" that I completely loose touch with the "end" I am trying to achieve. Sometimes I fear that if I neglect the "means" part of my life I will not be able to enjoy the "ends". Sometimes I remember that most of the "ends" I desire are pretty cheap and close by so I make the most of them.
The Big Question
What is the "end" that you want to achieve? This is a big question if you zoom right out, but it is a good one - what is the "end" you want to achieve? A question that follows is what is the "means" by which I will get to that "end"? What is the "end", and what is the "means"? This distinction is important. "End", and "means". For example buying a house by the beach is not necessarily a "means" to enjoying the beach.
It may well be a "means" by which you spend you life trying to pay off the house that you have just bought by the beach. You may have a nice view, but you may never get time to enjoy the beach. Last time I checked beaches are free and if you actually look they are often enjoyed more by the people who don't live right next to them.
Right now could be a good time to re-examine the "ends" in you life and the "means" you are using to get there. Having money does not "mean" that your kids will love you. Having good looks does not "mean" he will engage with you. Having muscles does not "mean" that she will adore you.
Have your "means" become "ends" in themselves? Has the career that you got so that you could have spare time become the thing that you give all your spare time too? Has the desire to be the epitome of hospitality become the thing that stops you from actually being hospitable?
Now think of God, and "means", and "ends". Gliding down a road on a skateboard is an end in itself, and basically the "means" to achieve this is to get a skateboard and push with my left leg. Now ask yourself this; is God a "means", or an "end"? Is God a "means" to get something... heaven perhaps? Or is God a "means" to get out of something... hell maybe? I feel that in the minds of most people (including Christians) exists a basic nonsense, an aspect of their understanding of God that is nothing more than pagan - that God is a "means" to an "end" and not an "end" in Himself.
Perhaps you have never had anyone point this out to you before, that your conception of God is as a "means", as a way to get something. This is the pagan thread that runs through most peoples minds - I do this for God so that God does this for me. The pagan views God as a "sugar daddy". Christian faith views God as a loving Father, someone worth relating to, someone that is and "end" in themselves.
What if it's the wrong idea?
So if we have got the wrong idea, and if we run with this wrong idea long enough we "end" up in the wrong place. I had a conversation with a certain person some time ago and this person's main complaint with Christianity was that, as she understood it, she did not get to go to heaven. I asked her "why do you even want to go to heaven? What is there that you should desire it?" And she was stumped, but her question was not satisfied.
What we discovered as we talked was that this person did not want to go to heaven, none of the ideas they had about heaven excited them (does "heaven" excite you?). What this person did want was to not go to hell. They did not want what their idea of hell was - eternal punishment. I can understand that. God had quite a small place in this whole scene. The only thing that God did in this persons mind was to decide who got to go to heaven, and who got to go to hell. This person saw God only as a "means" to avoid punishment.
If this is the wrong idea how can we get the right idea, or at least a better idea? Where do we start? May I make a suggestion that the place we start at is ironically at the "end". What do we want? Really! What do we want? We want to be understood, and appreciated by people in our lives, we want to feel the heavens smiling on us.
We want meaning in our work and our pain, that we can contribute to others. We want the depth of eternity, the comfort of friends, and to know that God is there with us in it all. Smiles, laughter, dance, innovation, exploration, co-creation, synergy, wonder, discovery, awe. These are the things on our hearts. These are the things of God.
God is far more than simply the "means" to this, but the "end" in Himself. Perhaps that is why the first commandment is to love God with everything. Perhaps that is why the answer to Job's suffering was "God". Perhaps that is why "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". Perhaps that is why repentance does not mean merely repeating the sinners prayer, but turning you heart back toward God. Perhaps this is where Christian faith starts.
Please, please, please, start here!
Jared Diprose is a graduate from Carey Baptist College in New Zealand. He has been a youth pastor, and currently is working as a freelance contractor. In his spare time he makes surfboards.
Jared Diprose' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jared-diprose.html