In a recent interview on the StoryBrand Podcast, Winter Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton talked about the first thing he teaches new students at his ice skating academy.
He teaches them how to fall and how to get back up again.
For some reason that really resonated with me. Right out of the gate he’s letting them know that falling is inevitable. Sometimes a skater falls because of limited ability, faulty equipment, or misunderstanding. Or maybe they fall because they are just beginning. Sometimes falls occur while trying something new or because of carelessness.
But regardless of circumstance or situation falls happen because falling is part of the process. It’s one of the ways we learn and grow.
Hamilton wants to instill this mindset early in his students because falling can be incredibly discouraging — especially when it looks like everyone else seems to be skating perfectly. He knows that confidence, competence, and improvement will only come if the skaters learn to get back up again. He doesn’t want them to enjoy falling and he certainly doesn’t want them to skate recklessly or not give their best, but he wants to remove the sting & stigma of taking a tumble.
Lesson 1: If you fall, you get back up.
Lesson 2: You try it again.
If you’ve ever watched any figure skating on TV, you know how one slip up can ruin a program, how one miscue can mean the difference between first and fifth place. But Hamilton doesn’t want the fear of falling to keep his students from pushing themselves to be the best they can be. He wants to free them from the paralysing inertia that can accompany early setbacks.
Don’t worry about it or fret over it. And please don’t give up. Falling is a natural part of learning new things.
As he spoke, I started thinking about some of the tumbles I’ve taken in life. A few of those spills left me gun-shy and discouraged — kind of a middle-aged version of that life alert lady who had “fallen and can’t get up.” Then other times, it wasn’t an actual fall that was my undoing, but the fear that it might happen. My unwillingness to risk an “epic fail” has kept me from trying new things or taking a chance for fear that I will somehow mess up. For some reason the comfort of sitting it out seems to be better than risking full engagement.
Ultimately my thoughts led me to the church. How are we doing at helping people learn how to fall and how to get back up again? Unfortunately, when I look at how most churches respond to the face plants people experience in life I see more of my own cooky thoughts about falling than actually helping people navigate the trials of life. What if, instead of distancing, shaming or immobilizing, your church and my church took seriously the call to help people learn how to fall and how to get back up again?
What if we stepped out of the judges’ booth and onto the ice? What if we knew how to cheer the effort and encourage the next run? What if we didn’t just sing, but actually heeded Chris Rice’s encouragement in Untitled Hymn to “fall on Jesus”? Remember that verse?
And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we fall, so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!
Then reality hit me. The Bible does talk about how to fall and how to get back up again. It just doesn’t get as much press as the end times, what marriage is, or the fact that God knows the plans He has for us, but it’s in there.
It’s called confession and repentance.
How do you fall? Confess your sins to the Father.
How do you get back up again? Repent.
What does it look like to fall on Jesus? It’s confession. Agree with God that sin is sin. More importantly, agree with God that your sin is sin. It’s not just that you’re having a bad day or that everyone is doing it. Confession is not to rationalize, blame, deny, or make excuses. It is to agree with God that sin is sin.
How do you get back up? You repent. Repentance is a change of heart, a change of mind, a change of direction, a change of behavior. It’s when you recognize the error of your ways, stop, and change course. Repentance is not self pity, remorse, or regret. It’s not trying to do something else better in order make up for or draw attention away from the fact that you’ve fallen. It is a change of heart, mind, and direction.
And repentance is not a one time deal. Martin Luther opened up his 95 Theses with these words: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” ( Matthew 4:17 ), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. Repentance is an ongoing part of the growth process.
A skater who falls during a competition doesn’t stay on the ice. He or she gets back up and finishes the program. In the same way, the next time you fall, overreact, or voice an unkind word. The next time you make a mistake or experience a lapse in judgement, confess and repent.
No program is flawless. There’s always room for improvement. The only epic fail is not getting back up again.
How do you fall? Confess.
How do you get back up again? Repent.
And skate on.