This was a fantastic year for the Olympics. I have always loved the Winter Olympics especially and like perhaps many of you, yes, I did get the famed Dorothy Hamel haircut. This year was especially moving to watch. There were many emotional moments, both wonderful and difficult.
I suppose for me, the absolute best moment was when I heard the TV announcer interviewing the coach for the US Ski Team. The best questioned was asked -- “How do you train an Olympic skier?” The coach’s response surprised me, with its simplicity and its depth. He said, “First, I teach them how to fall. They are going to fall… a lot, and they need to know HOW to fall.”
This fascinated me so much. Then I got to thinking about the life applications of that and absolutely loved it. I think sometimes I find myself living so “safely” and “carefully”, and to be honest, one of my BIGGEST fears it to be wrong -- to make a mistake. I want to be perfect! Anyone with me so far? I don’t want to disappoint anyone; I don’t want to make a wrong decision or a wrong choice; I don’t want to make a mistake.
What fascinated me about this US Olympic ski coach was the simple fact that he knew -- to be truly great at something, you were going to have to get used to falling. I mean, what Olympic skier decides one day to be a great skier -- without ever having skied -- and the very next day is dashing at ridiculous speed down a snowy mountain? No one. There is a learning curve… and they are going to fall… A LOT!
Why do we think we know everything there is about life and how to live it? We don’t. And although it might not be our intention to make mistakes, mistakes are going to happen. And we are probably going to disappoint someone, and we are probably going to hurt someone’s feelings. This terrifies me.
It would never be my intention to do so, but I guess the reality I am coming to is this -- Stuff happens! And when (not if) I mess something up… I can always seek to make it right, the best I know how.
There is a scripture that has honestly terrified me my whole life, until I read a commentary that helped explain it to me….
Matthew 5:48 -- “You therefore must be perfect (YIKES) as your Heavenly Father is perfect (YIKES again)”!
Then I read a commentary that explained it this way…
There are several Greek words for the word ‘perfect’, but in this instance, Jesus is using the word, TELEIOS, which means – “for something or someone to be at the appropriate stage at the appropriate time.” A tree in the fall that has lost its leaves is just as ‘perfect’ as a tree budding in the springtime, because “it is at the appropriate stage at the appropriate time.”
I love that so much. It means that someone who is new to the faith of being a Jesus Follower is, let’s just say it, going to fall. Do we throw them out? Absolutely not. Because they are learning and are at the appropriate stage at the appropriate time. If someone is grieving, there is a season that must be given its due time.
I think you get the gist of what I’m saying here. This little verse in Matthew has honestly been the thing that has been a big part of my setting free process -- because after all, it is a process. Our faith journey as a Jesus Follower is a compass, not a stop watch.
A few years ago I wrote a little book called Falling Forward, which basically talked about the idea that if we are going to fall on the journey, let’s at least fall forward and learn something new.
SO, here is what I am learning from the Olympics—
1. To really be great at something, we will probably fall a lot as we learn and grow. Embrace it.
2. When we fall, fall forward. Let’s learn something in the process of falling, so we won’t fall the same way again.
3. Perfect doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. Perfect means – “at the appropriate stage at the appropriate time.”
4. Our faith journey is a compass, NOT a stop watch.
5. Be diligent in the pursuit of truth, AND be patient and kind to yourself along the journey.
And may we all continue to fall... FORWARD.