Multiple times I have written about the struggles of being a goal-oriented person, about the difficulty in surrendering when my first instinct is to try and plan my life down to the minute, to try to make it as productive as possible. As my journey through college continues, the idea of opening my hands to receive God’s grace while simultaneously letting Him take control has become harder and more necessary to embrace.
In the midst of a particularly anxious moment while traveling back from Thanksgiving Break, it occurred to me that Christ, the perfect role model, not only showed me how to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), how to walk by grace, but also how to fall by grace. By falling upon the road to Calvary, Christ admitted human weakness, but also showed the strength of faith. He fell three times; He did not walk the whole way without difficulty. Yet as the perfect Lord He did not fall because He could not do it, but because He wanted us to see that taking up one’s cross is hard. When striving to be perfect, one will stumble sometimes and will need help, yet a fall is not a failure but rather is an opportunity, and as Christ showed us, we must get up again.
This realization came upon me rather suddenly, but it was truly the answer to my prayer. So many times over the past couple years I have tried to complete fitness challenges, regularize my prayer life, let go of stress, find peace, and so many times I have failed. As an over-achiever I became increasingly discouraged, thinking I must be particularly weak and sinful since I was so good at failing. The more discouraged I became, the less I liked myself and the more critical I became, always on the defense trying somehow to justify my failings by comforting myself with the thought that others were failing too. Inevitably, these thoughts only added to the anxiety rather than soothing it away, and any respect or love I had for myself slowly dissipated.
But Christ has blessed me from the moment of my birth by constantly surrounding me with people who love me, and who I love. And suddenly I began to see that I had been so focused on myself, my feelings, my failures, that my negativity had started hurting those around me. I learned that dwelling on my failure was a type of pride as well, for I had become so isolated in my thoughts I had stopped considering or truly loving those I thought I was protecting by internalizing the problems. Come to find out, I am more of an open book than I thought.
Slowly but surely I started trying to fix it, but it was discouraging to begin again with things I had done well not that long ago. As I sat in the airport, I read about a new fitness challenge starting in January, one hosted by the same women who hosted the previous ones I had tried. And for the first time I did not want to sign up, I did not want to start planning to ensure my success, because I knew I would fail anyway. This horrible attitude accompanied me onto the plane, mixing with my fear of flying and turning into a perfect emotional storm.
Then a “still, small voice” whispered in my ear, “You are not alone,” and I knew then that Christ did not fall because He lacked the strength to bear His cross, but because He wanted to show me, to show all people, that a fall is not a reason to quit but rather an opportunity to get back up, to keep trying, “to finish the race” (c.f. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). He fell for us just as He died for us, and in that moment Christ reminded me that it was not my falls that defined me, but how I responded to them. For the first time I understood, in a small way, why Christ fell three times upon that difficult road: because He knew that His children, already fallen and always falling, would need someone to show them how to do it, and how to get back up again.