Monday, January 28, 2013

Jumping on the Bar

I watched my daughter do something courageous this weekend. Let me explain first--she is a gymnast. Right there, most of you are now saying, “Duh, she did something courageous. She does things on a daily basis I have no intention of ever doing.” Which is true. The only sane adult I've ever seen attempt these kinds of moves was my Uncle Jim. But it was the 4th of July, and he was very drunk, and it was NOT a good idea.

One year ago at her high school championships, she jumped on the uneven parallel bars to do a routine that should have been fairly, well, routine. But it wasn't. It ended in a fall and a concussion that left her disoriented, weepy, and in pain for two weeks.

She's been haunted by that fall ever since. She's relived the feeling every time she even thought about performing that dismount. She hasn't been able to mentally get past the fear of trying it again.

Fast forward to this weekend. Same competition, same apparatus, even harder dismount. I watch her chalking up, and I know she's afraid. I know she's remembering. I know she's thinking, “What if?” And I watch her unhesitatingly jump anyway.

At that point, her score didn't matter. Whether or not she stuck the routine didn't matter. The most important thing she accomplished all day was simply jumping on the bar.

How many of us have fallen on our face off the bar and are terrified to try again? You got fired, or had a business fail. Your marriage fell apart. You alienated yourself from a parent or a friend because you behaved like kind of a jerk. You sent out a manuscript you'd poured your heart into and had it rejected 26 times. Ouch. And now you feel like it's too late or too scary to try again.

Maybe you can relate to this guy. Remember Peter, the guy who promised to stand by Jesus until the end and then, when the soldiers came, decided that was end enough? Um, yeah, Jesus. That's far enough; we're done here; you're on your own now. He swore on a stack of Bibles he didn't know his Teacher. Afterward, he was terrified, with good reason, to go back and face the resurrected Jesus. His was a pretty big time failure. So Jesus specifically tells his friends, “Hey, tell Peter I really want to see him.” I want him to try again.

Was the hardest thing Peter ever did to walk on water, start the church, or face martyrdom? No. The hardest thing Peter ever did was go back to Jesus and face down his fear of rejection and failure. It was to resist the temptation to crawl into a box of anonymity and never try that scary thing again.

What's the scary thing in your life you don't want to jump back into? Take a few steps toward it today:

  • Live in the present. Whatever happened last year or yesterday is old news. It doesn't define you today. It can't hold you.
  • Pinpoint the problem. Exactly what scares you about trying again? Isolate the real source of the fear.
  • Objectively decide how realistic that is. What's the worst that could happen? Not that you imagine could happen but what could really happen? Will it kill you?
  • Do it anyway. Unless it's, say, a fear of jumping off a building and you realize that is extremely realistic and a bad idea. But chances are it's not, and you should just jump onto that bar.

Let me know how it turns out. I'd love to cheer you on in trying again. Just leave a comment about it here.

And yes, that's my kid. Second place, uneven parallel bars.

Monday, January 21, 2013

scarce in this neighborhood

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!" (Martin Luther King Jr.)

Last week, I said I wanted to talk about fear on this blog. And wow, what a way to start. With a man who was more afraid to miss God's will than to die. I wish I could say that was my life, too. But I can't. God's still working.

Who hasn't noticed the huge resurgence of superhero movies the last year or two? (I swear this relates to MLK, trust me.) It seems that if comic books ever created one, there's been a recent movie about him/her. Or will be in 2013. 

I'm thinking maybe the best way to finally secure my financial future in writing is to find some obscure superhero and turn him into a movie. There's got to be one left no one has grabbed. Maybe I'll go with the one a friend invented several years ago, Captain Never On Time, the distracted superhero. I think I'd find him easy to write.

But why the sudden interest? I wonder if maybe we're looking for a hero. We know they're an endangered species. We seek one. At the same time, we don't believe in them. Which makes the search kind of challenging. Witness the "new" superman logo above. No longer super--more dark and uncertain (

And maybe we don't believe in them because, looking into our own hearts, we know there is little commitment there to go beyond our comfortable lives and really seek the promised land. A wish, perhaps. A deep desire. But a commitment that puts that vision above the fear? I wonder if we've lost it in this century.

Honestly? I think MLK Jr would be appalled to witness us all too willing to post Facebook messages about how much we hate the injustice of the world (or our personal version of injustice) but be extremely skittish about putting our time, pocketbooks, or reputations on the line to actually seek the Promised Land. Never mind our busy lives. And I am one of the guilty.

As was said in the movie I saw the other night,

 "I tried to find one (a hero); but warriors are busy fighting one another in distant lands, and in this neighbourhood heroes are scarce, or simply not to be found." (Gandalf, The Hobbit) 

I think that's the appeal for me of my favorite pieces of literature. Frodo and Sam were more afraid not to do what they were meant to do than to die trying. Jean Valjean was more afraid not to be the good man God spared him to be than to face imprisonment and death. I find those the compelling stories of my reading life. I want them to be the stories of my real life. I want to see the vision of  the Promised Land and not be afraid to say, "That's where I'm going." Whether or not I make it doesn't really matter, because it's pointing my face the right way and keeping it there that matters. No matter what.

That's what King understood. That's what made him a hero. Lord, give us more women and men who understand.