At SoulFeast a couple of years ago, I remember hearing Trevor Hudson, a South African pastor say, “We fall down; we get up.” He was making the point that our lives are a journey, and that even when we think we have progressed, we still fall down. Our whole lives will be a process of falling down.
The key is the getting up part of this phrase. Falling down is part of our human condition, but getting up is what transforms us from the realm of miserable failure to that of hopeful saints. In getting up, we affirm God’s mercy toward us, and we live in grace, confident of our forgiveness.
I am being reminded of this because I had a recent, and still tender, fall. Not a physical fall, but an experience of selfishness where I hurt another. It is tempting to wallow in my wretchedness, and yet, if I choose that course, I turn away from God into my own self-centered guilt.
As much as I regret my behavior, I more regret the hurt I caused. My asking the person for forgiveness does not guarantee that they forgive me, and they are under no obligation to do so. Like Peter, when he denied Jesus three times, I’ve wept bitterly. But also like Peter, I get up and keep moving ahead.
We don’t like to see the ugly parts of ourselves. We would always rather think that we are “good” people, comparing ourselves to ax murderers and other folks who do heinous deeds. The reality is, though, that there is much junk within, and every now and then, it comes out and we fall. It’s why we need forgiveness. It’s why we need a Savior. It’s why grace is so transformative. Our ability to admit and not excuse our falling helps us to recognize that we are not so different than the ax murderer, and grace is available for us both.
Peter and Judas both betrayed Jesus, but while Judas could not get up from his falling, Peter did. Christ’s grace and forgiveness got him up and going. May it do so for me, and for us all when we fall down.