wake-boarding and a new way to hold failure
Dawn and I spent a part of our vacation up in Northern Saskatchewan where we borrowed her parent’s cabin for the week.
Most of the week was spent not doing much of anything, but if we weren't doing that, there was a good chance we were out on a boat with her brother and his family.
So one afternoon we’re out on the lake,
its hot and beautiful,
we’re cruising around,
and then one of my nephews turns to me and asks: “Do you want to try my wakeboard?”
Now, I had no idea what that actually was but still trying to gain cool Uncle status, said 'Sure.'
I mean if he’s 12 and does it, Im sure I could do it too, whatever it was.
So he hands me this mini-snowboard thing,
I strap it on,
I get in the water,
and I assume the proper stance
(“like youre pooping on a log” is the advice I got).
So feeling excited and confident I yell ‘go!’,
the boat takes off,
and I feel the tug of the rope,
I feel myself being pulled up onto the water, I feel myself being pulled up into the air,
I can see the water below me,
and then BAM! Face first into the lake.
So I try again, same thing happens.
And then again and again.
4 times and I couldn’t get up.
4 times and I couldn't do this thing I want to do.
We’ve all been there havent we?
Anyone else know what that’s like?
And we’re not just talking wake-boarding, here.
We’re talking all the ways we weren’t able to get up.
We're talking about all the ways we’ve fallen on our face.
We’re talking relationships, parenting, our jobs, our aspirations, our joys, our dreams.
We're talking about all the times when we’ve been so excited and so pumped to do something,
about the times when we've boldly stepped out and have completely and spectacularly failed.
We’ve all got those stories, don’t we?
And if you’ve got a a story,
if you’ve experienced failure,
if you’ve fallen and failed,
you know what failure says to us:
"Youre a lost cause.
You cant do that?
Well, you definitely cant do this or this or this.
Know what? Just give up now."
And if we know that,
well, we know where that leaves us.
It leaves us stuck, doesn’t it?
Not wanting to hear that again,
not wanting to feel that again,
we dont take the risk,
we dont step out,
we play it safe,
we stay put,
maybe we even pull back because we know anything is better than failing.
Anyone know what Im talking about?
Yah, fear and shame will do that to us.
And by and large, that’s how we’ve been conditioned to think about failure.
It’s this fear and shame inducing thing we want to avoid at all costs.
This thing that leaves us stuck and fixed but better that than hearing what failure says about us.
But here’s the thing for us to remember when it comes to failure;
here’s what I had to force myself to remember while sitting in the boat just feeling shitty for not being able to get up:
The wisdom of the Jesus Tradition offers us a different way to think about failure.
IF our faith and spirituality is about movement ...
IF it is about change and becoming …
IF it is about entering into this process of becoming more human, more whole, and more alive …
IF it is about doing the incredibly tough work of transformation and wholeness …
then the truth is,
failure isn’t something to avoid, it's something to embrace.
Its something to embrace because failure is going to happen.
You. Are. Going. To. Fail.
It happens. It needs to happen. Its how transformation and wholeness happens.
Its only by stumbling that we ever get anywhere.
“Yah but what about the shame and fear? We have to just deal with that?!?"
But here’s what we need to remember that:
IF our faith and spirituality centres around resurrection and this idea that the worst thing isnt the last thing …
IF our faith and spirituality is fundamentally about grace …
then the whole failure narrative gets rewritten.
No longer does it say you’re horrible, you’re bad, you should just give up,
but now it says:
"Look at you! You're trying!
Keep it up!"
Failure is how we find ourselves and our way and place in the world.
It's good to fail.
It's important to fail.
The trick is,
to paraphrase our friend Richard Rohr,
to fall in the right direction.
So, some questions for us to rumble with:
how can you rewrite your failures?
how can you fall forward?
how you can embrace failure?