Failure is something that has always been hard for me to deal with. I remember when I first became a sponsored skateboarder, if I went to a skate park and had a bad day, or went filming and was too afraid to try a trick that I knew I could do, I would get really discouraged and tell myself that I was a terrible skateboarder and that I shouldn’t be sponsored. A sponsored skateboarder has a brand that they are representing every time they get on a board, and when people hear that someone is sponsored, they expect to be impressed with their abilities. If I felt like I wasn’t living up to people’s expectations or representing the company in a way that I felt like I should, then I would think to myself, “well I obviously shouldn’t be sponsored.” These expectations and standards that I felt like I constantly had to uphold and live up to drove me nuts and made me want to quit the company every time I became discouraged. The owner of the company I ride for (Embassador Skateboards) had to constantly assure me that I was good enough to ride for him and make sure I didn’t quit because of my lack of being able to deal with failure. This whole experience taught me a lot about how important it is to be able to deal with failure and not get discouraged when we don’t feel “good enough.”
One thing I’ve noticed about skateboarding, is that people that are really good are always good at falling. They know how to fall in the right way so they don’t get hurt, and they are able to take a hard fall and get back up and try it again. What has allowed them to get so good is that they have learned how to work through the failures in order to get them where they want to go. Sometimes it takes hours to do something new, and if a skateboarder can’t fall well then they will never be able to give those tricks the necessary amount of tries that it takes to do it. They will just always be giving up as soon as they take a fall and would never grow as a skateboarder. Great skill in landing tricks, is always coupled with a great skill in falling.
As Christians, there is also a lot that is expected of us. Christ says in Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect,” and in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.” The worst part about that verse is the “before others,” for that is where all the anxiety stems from. A sponsored skateboarder has a brand to represent and market to skateboarders, and a Christian has a God to represent and market to the world. The things that we are expected to uphold can be very heavy and burdensome, and as a new Christian, I tended to stress out over the things that were expected of me. Every time I fell short I would feel terrible and feel like I wasn’t fit to be a Christian, and was somehow blowing it for everyone and giving Christianity a bad name. But Paul says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and in Romans 8:1, “There is no condemnation for those that belong to Christ Jesus.” As a Christian and as sponsored skateboarder, I had to learn how to fall well – to not get discouraged when I failed to live up to the expectations. All God asks of us is to give Him our best efforts, and his grace covers us when we fall short. Something that really helped assure me in this was Micah 6:8, “He has shown you O man what is good, and what does the LORD require of you but to walk justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” When Jesus says, “you must be perfect,” he is setting a high standard to aim for so we never settle for mediocrity, and he gives us verses like those in Romans and Micah to assure us that He doesn’t ever really expect us to reach perfection, just to never settle for mediocrity; to keep in mind that we should always be growing and improving. Frank Chavez, the owner of Embassador always tells me, “it is better to aim high and fall a little short than to aim low and reach it.” To fall well as a Christian is to understand that Christ expects us to always push ourselves to be better, but that he loves us enough that we don’t need to get discouraged and loathe in our failure when we mess up. The great paradox of Christianity is that we are loved and accepted just as we are, but at the same time are expected to always be working on ourselves. It is crucial that we learn to fall well in every aspect of our life, for otherwise we will never have the skill to deal with failure, and without that, we will never become good or able to develop in anything.
How can we grow and develop in our skill of falling as Christians?
I heard a quote from someone anonymous once that said, “the biggest cause of atheism in the world today, is christians.” It was quotes like this that gave me a lot of anxiety as a young christian. How can we be mindful of this, but at the same time not beat ourselves up over our failures?
Throughout Church history there has been a lot of tension and debate of how we reconcile both Ephesians 2:8-9, “It is by grace we are saved through faith, not by works,” with James 2:20, “faith without works is dead.” How do these two compliment each other instead of being at odds with each other? Think of the great paradox of christianity that is mentioned above.