The "gift" of falling

Falling. It starts as soon as we take those first steps in life. Step, step, bump, plop. Goose-eggs from coffee table corners and bruised knees bring comforting hugs from mama. Not long after our first falls, most of us learn pretty well how to avoid them. We improve our balance, our strength, our coordination on two feet, and off we go! Ready to face the world in an upright position!

Then, about six years later, we learn to ride a bike. Once again...falling. Skinned knees, gravel embedded in skin, tears mixed with dust and dirt. After a bandage and kiss from mama, we get back up and try again. And again. Finally, we learn balance, strength and coordination (on two wheels this time), and we're off on new adventures! Ready to roll!

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Some fifty years after my first steps, I've lately had some first-hand experience with falling. Bike spills still happen when balance, strength and coordination can't compensate fast enough for obstacles in one's path. Elbows scraped on asphalt burn and sting for days, old shoulders don't bend and stretch like they used to, and tears still flow when pain meds wear off. When the rest of the body is "messed up," even walking can be tricky...ankles twist, and everything comes crashing down again in that old familiar bump, plop.

Unfortunately, I'm no longer a toddler or bouncy little kid. I don't spring back up like I used to. But I DO get back up...slowly. And I do heal...slowly. And I know that after things are repaired, I'll be walking and biking again...slowly, perhaps, for awhile, but eventually up-to-speed.

In the meantime, I am learning patience and the skill of taking smell the flowers rather than weed them, to read and write rather than cook and clean, to knit rather than paint, to pray and meditate on scripture rather than hurry to finish my summer to-do list. I'm depending on my kids and husband a little more than usual for some TLC, and looking to my friends for healing, encouraging words.

Ironically, just days ago, I was feeling great about being healthy and strong enough to help out my own ailing and aging parents and in-laws...freezing corn for my mom who is about to have knee replacement a refrigerator and freezer for my mother-in-law who recently suffered a mild stroke. I was reflecting on the cycles of life. How our parents cared for us when we were young (and again when we gave birth to our young), and how now, we can return the love by caring for them.

In fact, Tom and I have spent several weekends this summer with his parents. As dementia and Parkinson's rear their ugly heads, Dad has begun to lose the balance, strength and coordination he learned over 75 years ago. He is falling almost daily now, and this has forced us all to come together and make some tough decisions. It is difficult on him, on mom, and on all of us to know that the falls he takes now are not the kind that will go away with time and practice. Instead, they will give him wheels, and caregivers, and a new, safer place to live. As he journeys through his final years, we will all be there when he needs us, and the comfort and strength in his weakness will be found in his faith.

Falling is never easy. It robs us of our freedom. It reveals our human frailty. It uncovers our weaknesses and makes us vulnerable. It hurts...and makes us cry.

Falling is also a gift. It teaches us perseverance. It trains us in patience. It forces us to slow down and take notice. It makes us trust not so much in ourselves, but in the loving care of those around us. Most of all, it reveals to us our Father's loving hands...that catch us, hold us, and wipe away the tears when we fall.