Falling upward

falling upward

It is winter here in Colorado, and there is plenty of ice on the sidewalks and roads.  It hasn’t melted for some time, and walking (which I love to do in any weather) can be a bit hazardous.  On occasion, I slip and fall.  Normally when we fall, we end up falling down.  This is because of the physical constant of gravity.  Gravity always pulls in the same direction: down.

However, speaking metaphorically, we also fall when the bad things of life happen.  In these inevitable situations, we fall (or someone near us falls which impacts our life).  We make an egregious error, we sin, we break something, we betray a trust, we contract a serious illness or disease, we lose a job, a marriage disintegrates, someone runs a red light and destroys our car.  The list goes on and on.

How we respond to these situations is truly what shapes our character. We can fall down and let the bad situation continue to have a negative impact on our life.  Or, we can fall up, and let that negative experience mature and grow us into a better person.

Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, has written an excellent discourse titled, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.  In this insightful book, Rohr describes the tasks of the two major phases of life.  “He teaches us that those who have failed, or gone down, are the only ones who can really understand “up.” Those who have somehow fallen, and fallen well, are the only ones who can grow spiritually and not misuse ‘up.’”

Our lives our littered with mistakes.  How we rebuild and learn and grow after each mistake shapes our character.  Each incident is an opportunity for drawing closer to God.   Yes, we will have pain and suffering in our lives, but we do not have to allow pain and suffering define who we are.  We can fall up, broaden our understanding of ourselves and the world, and become better people in the process.

Just today I was discussing this concept with a friend.  I stated that it is hard for me to trust someone who has an “ideal” life, someone that appears to have made few mistakes or has experienced little pain and suffering.   It is suspicious.  It is abnormal. Adversity builds character.  Hardship sifts out the chaff from our life (the frivolous and unimportant) and compels us to draw nearer to God in faith.

One of my favorite scripture passages is one that I repeated out loud ten times a day during my darkest hours following my divorce three years ago.

Those who suffer according to the God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do what is right.        I Peter 4:19

Despite the pain and suffering we should turn towards God, the Faithful One.  He will sustain us.  We should never use our pain and suffering as an excuse to act out or engage in further wrong behavior.  We must press on and continue to do what is right!  This is falling upward.  Moving on to a better place through the adversity of life which is inevitable.  Rohr’s book describes the process of spiritual growth through the experiences of life both bad and good (primarily the bad ones).

If you are struggling or suffering today, look to God for strength.  Respond with faith, kindness, forgiveness, and grace.  This is the path of healing and growth.  In the long run, falling upwards is less painful than falling down.  It is also how we grow and mature and become better humans.

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About John Forrest