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 make myself believe that I sucked at skateboarding 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, and 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 my thinking was, “well then I obviously shouldn’t be sponsored.” These expectations and standards that I felt like I constantly had to uphold drove me nuts and made me want to quit the company every time I had a melt down; I couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t representing the brand like I felt I was suppose to. 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 things are not going according to plan, and this was something I had to work through as a skateboarder and as a Christian.
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 without being bothered by it or held back by the pain. What has allowed them to get so good is that they have learned how to work through the failed attempts 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’ll never be able to give those tricks the necessary amount of tries that it takes to do that new thing.
As Christians, there is a lot that is expected from 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.” 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 of these I would feel terrible and feel like I wasn’t fit to be a Christian. 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 things didn’t go according to plan or when I failed to live up to the expectations. All God asks of us is to give Him our best efforts (and/or our sponsors). 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 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 can always be better. 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; everyone “falls short.” Probably the greatest reminder of this in scripture is Hebrews 4:15-16, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and grace to help in time of need.” Christ, our great high priest understands our weaknesses and failures and is able to sympathize with them, we have no need to convince ourselves that we are letting God down or that we suck as Christians when we fall. Fall well my friends.