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Editor's Note: The text below is adapted from "Hosoi: My Life as a Skateboarder Junkie Inmate Pastor" by Christian Hosoi, with Chris Ahrens. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Hosoi. Used with permission of HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.
You know that saying, “It’s all good”? There’s a book in the Bible called James, which made that same point nearly two thousand years ago. It says it like this: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (1:2). I’ve been running so hard for so long that when someone approached Eddie and asks, “Did you hear what happened to Christian?” he nearly collapses, thinking he’s gonna hear that I’ve died. The body count for people involved in my lifestyle is mounting, not just among my friends but generally, and his reaction is kind of a natural.
While my death might not have surprised many people, nobody could ever guess that I would become a Christian. Well, I have always been unpredictable.
Most people now, looking back, would list January 23, 2,000—the day I was arrested at the Honolulu airport—as the lowest point in my life. I see it, with the benefit of hindsight, as the time when my real life began. Let’s go back a decade, though, to see what happened after the event.
Those first few days after my arrest in Hawaii are the worst. I’ve got nothing and no one to lean on, especially since at first I can’t reach Jen by phone. I’m looking at ten years and have only been locked up for three days; already I’m like a rat in a cage, looking for a place to escape. There isn’t any.
When I finally get through to Jen on the phone I express my despair, my fears that I won’t be able to make it through ten years. She’s crying, but she’s strong. “I love you, she says, “and we’ll get through this. We’ve just got to trust in God.” She points out that it could have been a lot worse: I could have died, or it could have been both of us in jail that day, since she was originally going to carry dope with me on that plane.
I can’t help wishing that I’d flown the dope somewhere within the state of California instead of all the way to Hawaii. If I’d been caught doing that, I probably would have received only a slap on the wrist and probation. Here, though, there’s nobody I can pay off and nobody to help me. Several lawyers look into my case and there’s nothing illegal in how I’ve been arrested. With no loopholes to squeeze through, I’m stuck wondering how to make the best of the next 120 months.
Even though I hate being stuck, stuck is right where I need to be. I’m finally still enough to hear what God has to say to me. I’m off all drugs, though by no choice of my own; and with no weed or speed in my system, I can think straight and start catching up on the years of sleep I’ve lost. Now, for the first time, the events of my life come into focus, and I began to see the pattern of living that’s brought me here.
It’s not as if God’s been silent over the years. My girlfriend Jen’s Uncle Chris, a pastor, has been reaching out to her forever, since long before we left California. Even after she started going to church with her grandmother she remained unconvinced, and I’m not even listening. Here we are, a stripper doing drugs and a strung-out pro skateboarder. In the world’s eyes, and in hers and mine, that’s about as far from God as it gets. In God’s eyes, however, she and I are no different from some nice tea-drinking husband and wife who do good and productive work and coach their kid’s soccer team on the weekends.
Just before I get busted that final time, we’re cruising around in Oahu when a woman at a gas station asks, “Have you guys ever gone to church? There’s a good one not far from here.” It’s an apparently random comment, one I haven’t heard from a stranger before, ever. God is tapping on our shoulders, but we simply tell the woman, “Yeah, we’ve been to church.” We have no time for that now; we’re doing life our way, and our way is to score drugs.
No matter what I do or who I talk to, it looks like I’m serving all ten years; that’s actually the minimum mandatory sentence for my crime. Okay, now I’ve got to do what Jen says: “Trust God.” That’s the reality of life for all people every day, but it takes seeing it through prison bars to get a clear picture.
Jen tells me on that first phone call to get a Bible, so I begin asking around for one. A guy in another cell says I can use his. He hands it to me through the bars. Here’s this great big book, all underlined and with notes in the margins, and I have no idea why it should be of any interest to me.
I open to the first book in the Bible, Genesis. To me that’s an old Star Trek movie. I flip to the back of the Bible, Revelation. I’ve never had any sort of revelation before, not even drug-induced, so I can’t relate. I go to the middle of the book and puzzle over how to pronounce the name of the book I’ve turned to. P-salms. What is P-salms? A nearby book, Proverbs, sounds like an old-school lecture, and John sounds really boring. I finally stop at the book called I Kings. Kings, now that sounds good.
The second chapter of I Kings begins with King David on his deathbed, charging his son Solomon to heed the voice of the Lord and follow that voice all the days of his life. God tells him that if he does that, everything will go right for him. But I then read the story of Solomon, and it doesn’t end that well. Here’s the wisest man in the world and even he’s seduced by the temptations of lust, greed, and fame. The guy has a million times more of everything than I’ll ever have, and he still blows it. I relate to him totally, and by seeing what he should have done, I begin to understand what I need to do.
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