“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” — Philippians 3:12
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I recently read the fascinating autobiography of former Olympic men’s gymnastics silver medalist Jonathan Horton. He was always one of my favorite gymnasts to watch, especially in his specialty: men’s high bar. That guy could FLY! He always competed with such energy and passion. He was forever the consummate teammate, encouraging others and providing that special spark during competition. Even more importantly, Horton was never afraid to show his Christian faith openly. He would often be seen having a quick moment of prayer before a routine. He would talk freely in interviews about how he found his peace and his strength in God.
Having now been retired from the sport for a few years, he decided to share his journey publicly and explain all the people and experiences that led up to those few moments of Olympic excitement. I was intrigued, however, by the title he chose for his book, as it’s not something most would think fitting of an Olympic medalist. It was simply called, “Falling Forward: How An Ordinary Kid Failed His Way To His Olympic Dream.” It’s surprising to think that someone would be so open about the reality of their athletic journey, and yet, Jon’s never been one to hide the truth.
I’ve since been thinking about the concert of falling forward. If you think about babies when they’re learning to walk, they tend to fall forward. They put their hands out and catch themselves. But, as they grow and get older, gravity tends to cause them to fall backwards. And maybe the same can be said metaphorically for how we live our lives: Our tendency is to fall backward — to get angry or frustrated about our mistakes and our failures, to stay stuck on our hangups and flaws, to give up on the possibility we can change or overcome our weaknesses and sins by grace.
But the Christian walk isn’t one of getting everything right all the time. Because the truth is, we will always be falling short, in some fashion, of God’s standard. We are human, and that is just the reality. But are we falling backward or falling forward when we do stumble? Are we leaning into our failures and asking God to show us what we need to change, what we need to let Him heal or deal with? Or are we beating ourselves up and complaining about how many times we’ve let God, ourselves or others down, and why we can’t seem to “get it right” for once?
Falling forward means viewing all the trials, all the mishaps, all the failures as opportunities for grace to step in. To trust that mercy remains even in the face of all our imperfections. Maybe it’s time to give ourselves a little more grace in the spirit of the One we follow, and focus not so much on never falling and more so on falling the right way when we do — growing from our setbacks and mistakes so that every stumble merely becomes another part of how we fail our way to spiritual success.
— Katherine Singer
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