A couple of days ago, I fell. Flat on my face. Literally. I haven’t fallen so hard since I was three years old, and busted my lip and my favorite froggy toy wide open. My mom tells me that fall made me stop sucking my thumb, because it was too painful. And similarly, I learned a few things when I fell this time too. I want to share with you some things I learned about falling down and learning from my own mistakes.
“It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.”
It was a normal weekday afternoon. I was cleaning my mom’s office, which I swear has paperwork from before the dinosaurs. OK, maybe not the dinosaurs. At least before me. There really is paperwork in that office that dates before my time. (If you ask my kids, those two time periods are synonymous. hmph.)
Lesson 1: Learn from your mistakes
As I sorted and found papers that could be discarded, I shredded them in her small office shredder. But it was overflowing. So I grabbed a large garbage bag, and emptied the shredder into the garbage bag, and promptly left it…. In the middle of the floor. See – I did something really dumb that caused my own demise. I would have told my kids to make a designated place for that bag that was not in the middle of the walkway. If I had done that, I would not be writing this story right now!
Not only that, if I had moved it before I picked up a big armful of stuff and began maneuvering through the walkway, I could have avoided what I am now calling “the great fall.” I mean – they probably felt the aftershocks of it in the next town over.
Our own mistakes are not the cause of every fall or failure in life. Sometimes it’s just the fact that we live in a fallen, sinful world. But we should always examine our hearts when we fail, and see if there is something we could have done differently to avoid the failure. In other words, learn from our mistakes.
“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”
Lesson 2: You can’t always keep from falling
So, I tripped over a trash bag that I had left right in the middle of the walkway, and came tumbling down. It was exactly as I have always pictured Goliath – being hit right in the middle of the eyes, and swaying, then tumbling face forward onto the ground. Yep, me and Goliath – we’re a lot alike. Taken down by something we thought was inconsequential. Anyway…
It was funny, because you know how they say time slows down and your life flashes before your eyes? That really did happen. Well, not the life flashing thing, but the slowing down thing. I knew I was going to fall flat on the floor about 27 minutes before I made final contact with the shiny wood surface.
I tried to do everything I could to avoid hurting myself in those long seconds. I’m pretty sure I tried grabbing the file cabinet, and the stack of boxes, and the door before landing flat as a pancake. That’s probably why my arms are sore. And I was in the middle of yelling, “Jesus, help me!” when my front teeth collided with the wood floor.
Lesson 3: You do have to get up!
So, anyway… as you can probably imagine, I landed not very gracefully. I could taste blood in my mouth and my front teeth were hurting. I laid there stunned for a minute, while my teenage daughter yelled, “Are you OK?” So I did what every good mother would have done. I assured her I was fine and then started bawling. I laid there crying for a few minutes over the pain and humiliation, and then began to do an inventory.
Ankles – check.
Knees – bruised but not broken, I think. Check.
Am I breathing ok – check.
My arms and hands – again bruised but I’ll live. Check.
Teeth – Still there, but iffy. And painful.
I thought for sure my mouth was busted up, and the only thing I could think was “I don’t have dental insurance. I’m going to be toothless for the rest of my life. How embarrassing!” (BTW, my teeth were fine the next morning… no false teeth for me yet!)
But I knew while I was laying there that I was going to have to get up sometime. I couldn’t live the rest of my life on the floor of my mom’s office. No matter how humiliating or painful it was going to be, I had to get past the failure.
Lesson 4: Change the way you do things
So I pulled myself up onto a chair and sat there for another 10 minutes, shaking and sniffling. Still going through the inventory of injuries to make sure I didn’t need to call 911.
And then it hit me.
This shouldn’t have happened. So I got mad. At myself. At the trash that was still in the middle of the walkway. And decided I needed to do something about it.
So although I was still sore and shaky, I got up and cleaned that entire room! I was not going to let that happen again. Especially not today. I had my daughter help me because I was having trouble moving, but we got that room spic and span in no time flat.
Sometimes the greatest successes are after the greatest mistakes. Sometimes it takes falling flat on our faces to realize that we need to do something to change our lives. And sometimes we have to get a little bit mad to motivate us to get up and move.
“Everyone falls down. Getting back up is how you learn how to walk.”
Lesson 5: Healing takes time
I limped my poor broken body down the front steps and into my vehicle and drove the 2 miles to get home, whining and complaining the whole time. I plopped my sore self down in my recliner, popped a couple of pain relievers and laid back for the evening. I didn’t sleep very well that night because every time I moved, my whole body ached and woke me up.
And as I write, it has been forty-eight hours since “the great fall” and I am still a little sore. If I move my knee just right it hollers. If I try to lift something heavier than a peanut, my muscles cry out in protest.
I’ll probably be sore for a week or two. It was a pretty hard fall. Eventually, my bones won’t be stiff when I’m getting out of bed in the morning. And time will have done it’s work.
Often we expect healing to come too quickly. We expect the hurts of betrayal and failure to go away, and never come back again. But sometimes it takes time and lots of prayer for the healing to truly happen.
Lesson 6: God is always there when we fall
As I look back on that fall the other day, I am thankful. It could have been so much worse. I could have busted my head on the door frame, instead of hitting my teeth on the floor. I could have actually caught myself on the filing cabinet, and caused worse damage to my muscles or broken bones. There could have been other obstacles in the floor that would have made my injuries worse. I really could have knocked the teeth out of my head, and gone toothless for the rest of my life.
But none of these things happened. I truly believe that God answered that quick, panicky prayer I screamed while I was going down. I think He sent an angel to guide my fall, so that I wouldn’t be injured worse than just a few pulled muscles and a few bruises. I can just hear that poor angel now… “How did I get roped into catching this girl!?”
But I am thankful that God has always been there to catch me when I fall and make mistakes… and do dumb things. Always!
The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
Psalm 37:23-24 New Living Translation
Have you ever fallen? Did you learn anything from the experience? I would love to hear from you!
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