On Falling and Getting Up Again

March 19, 2021

I was asked today by my church’s youth director to give a talk on Zoom to some youth. Not knowing what to say, I put together some thoughts. Here are the thoughts that occurred to me.

In your lives, if you are like most people, you will sometimes fall, and perhaps you may even fall so hard that it will feel difficult to get up again. You may not remember this, but you did the same thing when you were very small. Most of the time your parents were watching you, yet they did not always hold you up; they allowed you sometimes to fall. Why did they do this? Because they wanted you to learn how to walk. It is the same thing with us now: God, our heavenly Father, is watching us all the time, he loves us, and yet he allows us to fall. He does this, not out of anger, not to destroy us, but to keep us from destroying ourselves; sometimes it is only by experiencing the pain of falling that we realize how foolish we are, how bad the way is we are going, and that we still need to learn how to walk in the Spirit, in the way of God’s commandments.

Indeed, God wants us eventually to learn, not only to walk, but to run. We call the people who run in the way of God’s commandments, and who win a heavenly crown, saints; these are the people who are most successful in the race of life, even if most people consider them failures. These are the people of whom it can be truly said that they are happy; and God wants us, in fact, to be happy. Yet it should be remembered, even when we are not happy, even when we fall and feel miserable and are far from being saints, that God loves us. We should remember the story of the Prodigal, a son who not only did not run in the way of his father’s commandments, but ran away from his father and rejected him; yet, when he came to himself, when he turned back to ask his father’s forgiveness, his father not only did not reject him, but ran to him, fell on his neck and kissed him, and put on him a precious robe to cover his nakedness. Jesus gives us this story of the Prodigal because it tells us what God is like, and what we, often, are like: sometimes we are like the son who runs away and acts self-destructively, and sometimes we are like the other son, who does not run away, who stays at home and serves his father, but who does so coldly, and who has no real love, either for his long-lost brother or for his father himself; it is all, to him, a matter of self-interest and cold calculation, and at the end of the story we are left not knowing whether the older brother ever comes indoors and celebrates his brother’s return or, instead, stays outside, hardening his heart against the possibility of love. We need to be aware that both of these sons are examples for us of the kinds of mistakes we can easily fall into. And in both cases, the father is patient, and waits for us to return to our senses.

So that is what, God willing, we are doing during this time of Lent which is given to us as a way of preparing for the great celebration of Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s great triumph over sin and death. We are given an opportunity to return to our senses; we are given a course of preparation, of spring training, to encourage us to run again after our many falls and stumblings. We have a Physician on hand who is ready to bind up our wounds; but we also need to recognize our need to bind up the wounds of others; so we start this spring training by asking others forgiveness for the times we have wounded them. Jesus is on hand: not only as our coach, not only as our example, not even only as our Physician, but as someone who will be with us and run with us every step of the way. He wants us to learn how to run, and we only need to trust in him in order to start doing it. We may think of ourselves as complete failures in the race of life; that is not how Jesus thinks of us. He only wants us to get up again, and start running.

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