Disco lights flashed on the ice rink. Skaters of all ages and sizes floated, zoomed, or shuffled past my son and me. The two of us held hands as we attempted to glide gracefully along the ice. Our glow bracelets, compliments of the Ice Centre, encircled our wrists, making us feel both cheery and brave. Together, half slipping, half sliding, we made it halfway around the rink’s perimeter.
Then my son fell.
And so did I.
The wind left my lungs with a decided “oof.” Rafael started crying. I rolled on the ice, comforting him, “It’s okay, buddy. You’re ok. I’m ok.”
We clumsily got to our feet, attempted to reclaim our balance, and moved forward along the ice.
We fell again. The domino effect hitting me the hardest. I landed on my left hip once again. Rafa asked me, “Mama, are you okay?” Gathering all the mama-strength within me, I gritted out, “Yes, baby, I’m fine.”
We left the ice shortly thereafter. Glow bracelets in hand. Smiles on our faces. A deep throbbing ache in my hip.
I ignored the fact that it hurt. Chalked it up to living life.
Two months later, my body stopped working properly on runs, then at the gym, then during my lunchtime walks. It was time to take action. I went to physical therapy. After four months of physical therapy, my hip still wasn’t improving, so the doctor scheduled a cortisone shot.
As the long needle pierced my skin, and I felt the pain race through my entire left side, I decided ice skating might not be for me.
I wonder, at times, if I had paid attention to the throbbing ache sooner, if my hip would have healed sooner. I wonder if I had allowed myself to be okay with the fact that I fell, would I have taken better care of my body? I wonder if I’m falling in other ways now, but not letting myself recognize the fact that I have fallen, that it hurt, and that I need to heal from those falls?
I wonder if I am preventing love from doing its most sacred work in me because I am too busy or too proud to let it?
We all know what it means to fall. We watch the skaters in the Olympics as they triumphantly churn out perfectly practiced routines, only to miss their step, and wipe out on the ice. We chorus, “oh!”, together, and then we shout at them, “Get up, get up!”
We want them to keep going, to move on, to power through.
And that is exactly right. Moving on and keeping on going is vital.
But what I want to notice is that fact that sometimes we fall. Sometimes we mess up. We make mistakes. We trip up on the path.
I want to acknowledge that this happens while we are living life.
It’s called….being human.
It’s only when we accept the fact of the screw up that we can make it right.
It’s only when we acknowledge the fall that we can start to heal.
In my formative years, messing up was never taken lightly. I was not raised among those who shared Brittany Spears cavalier attitude (“Oops, I did it again”) to mistakes. As a pastor’s daughter, my actions were watched and evaluated at every turn. Heaven forbid, I misstep. Mistakes mixed in with the concept of sin. I was terrified of sinning and separating myself from a holy God that I couldn’t give myself grace when I was simply being a flawed human. Author and Franciscan monk Richard Rohr says, “No one walks a straight line of grace. It is a dance.”
A dance with lots of falls.
Too often, though, we keep dancing without an acknowledgment that something happened. Someone hurt us. Or we hurt someone. Words or actions were exchanged. But healing cannot occur until our place of injury is acknowledged
After Jesus died on the Cross and rose again, He met His disciples on a sandy beach. He fed them breakfast. He exchanged words with Peter in particular, questioning him repeatedly. “Do you love me?” was the refrain. I am sure Peter was embarrassed, or even frustrated, by the Savior’s questions. Peter knew he had denied Christ. He knew he had failed the Lord. And now, Jesus was battering him about the depth of his love.
But underneath that echoing phrase, “Do you Love Me?”, was an unfailing, undying love for Peter. In my mind this is why Jesus kept asking the question. Peter may have expected a reprimand. Instead he got love again and again. Jesus was gently and firmly calling Peter back to Himself, back to his true calling, back to the arms of love.
That is what Love does. It calls us back. It covers our failures and wrongdoings. It propels us forward. We may have a limp or a few scars but we are whole in its embrace. Maybe we won’t reconcile a relationship or forget old hurts, but we will acknowledge what happened. We will feel the hurt, the anger, the betrayal, the fear.
In the Old Testament, as Moses, the great leader of Israel, was about to die, he said, “The Eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
We will rise. The Everlasting Arms will pull us back up — bruised egos, wounded spirits, sprained hearts, and all. We will dance again.
In 2020, I will let love’s strong arms support me….
While I do my work as a paralegal and writer….
While my husband and I pursue foster care….
While I figure out family and friend relationships……
While I parent my son….
While I live as generously as possible…
While I try to be a faithful follower of Jesus.
Falls will happen. Mistakes will occur. I will make blunder after blunder. I will recognize them, acknowledge them, and see them for what they are.
Because, I know, the height and width and breadth of divine love will catch me.
Happy New Year, friends.