This past week I’ve been leading worship, spending time with my family, spending time with the Lord, going on runs, teaching myself how to play the guitar, driving around rich neighborhoods to admire Christmas lights, buying people Christmas presents, working out, ice skating, catching up on sleep, watching The Good Doctor and New Amsterdam, and eating sushi late at night. Every day of break I spend at home, I heal a little bit more from the academic wilderness that beat me up in my first quarter of college. Basically, I have 2 weeks to figure out how I am supposed to find the strength to go back.
Yesterday, I went ice skating for the first time in about 3 years. I didn’t lose as much I thought. I could still land my axel and a split jump. I could still do a one foot spin. It was pure joy to simply be back on the ice, and it brought back so many memories from when I was 13 years old and skating was my everything.
These 2 girls asked me if I could take a picture for them. Afterwards, one of them tried to step forward, slipped, and let out a little shriek. She freaked out, laughing as she tried to gain her balance. After she was standing again, she asked me, laughing, “How do you do this?” And she pointed at my skates.
“Heel to toe!” I said, laughing. I demonstrated the movement slowly. “Or you can just shuffle.”
She tried, lost balance, and then grabbed the wall laughing. “I just can’t!” She said.
“Here, I got you. I’ll take you around.” I turned around and held out my hands. I skated backwards with her hands in mine, as she continued to scream, struggle, snd laugh while her best friend laughed with her and tried to hold her as well.
“How long did it take you to get so good?” She asked me.
“I skated for about 2 years and then I quit,” I said. “But, we all start exactly the way you are. It’s totally okay.”
“Wow,” She said, in disbelief.
“You can’t be afraid to fall!” I told her, laughing. “You got this!”
Figure skating is one of the most freeing sports of all time. But trying to move on slippery ice with blades under your feet is quite the scary concept. Falling is just part of the sport. If you ever go ice skating, even if you aren’t trying to do anything extravagant, you will probably wake up the next day with your entire lower body hurting from stretching all your muscles. That’s also just part of it. When I was 13, I figured out that the only way to truly skate was to not be afraid of falling. Not because figure skaters are invincible, but because we were so used to it. We would say, “Fall seven times stand up eight.” Getting up after a fall was simply what we did.
But let’s face it. The reality is that we are human and do not want to fall. So we use the jump harness. Or hold back. I can’t tell you how many times yesterday I prepped for a jump or spin and didn’t follow through because I was afraid of falling. But the second the jump harness comes off, you’re back on the ice. And somehow you have to find the courage to try that jump that you have never landed before again. You probably had some really hard falls from attempting that jump. The thought of landing sounds scary because you don’t know what it’s going to feel like. You have no idea if you are doing it right. And the only way to learn is to try. A lot of times, you finally muster up the courage to try again, and you fall for the millionth time. Hard. But you get up again and again. Eventually, you land it. But landing it once doesn’t make you invincible from face planting on that same skill. What matters is not how many times you succeed or fall. What matters is that you keep getting up. Skating, like everything, is more of a mental battle than a physical one.
And what keeps a figure skater going is love. The adrenaline and rush is so special. The sound of landing a jump is so crisp, clean, and satisfying. If you are okay with falling, you get to try all these cool things that are so incredibly scary, and the whole journey of learning and messing up is just so much fun.
I was thinking about this because I finished the quarter with an A-, B, and a C. I finished with the whole alphabet. On one hand, I am grateful I passed everything. On the other hand, I am frustrated because I worked so hard. My grades do not reflect that I am a good student, and good students are supposed to get good grades. I tried and I fell. It’s my first quarter. I am learning so much. But even though I fell, it was still a step forward. No fall is ever a step back.
And if you aren’t falling, are you really living vulnerably? Are you really living the most meaningful life you could be living? Are you sure that you are growing? Because the people I look up to are not people that have never failed, but people who pressed on anyways.
“I had an exam to get my master’s the other day,” Anna told me. “God told me to spend time with him instead of study. So I listened, and I didn’t study at all. And I went into that test telling God it would be a miracle if I passed because I didn’t study. I had failed it once before. And, I passed. So I don’t know. I hope that encourages you,” she said.
I met another girl at church, Katie, who told me that her first semester of college was bad. She was frustrated because she had to drop a class and wondered if she would make it. But then she found a passion for Sociology and got into a prestigious social work problem later on, and is now going to graduate school to maybe go into counseling, like Anna (who is a therapist).
And then I thought of my math tutor, Ezequiel, who had said sort of the same thing. He came to UC Davis as a freshman but ended up having to go back to community college because he was living a broken life and was on academic probation. But one day the Lord set him free, and told him to major in math. He transferred to Davis this year as a junior. He told me that he was studying for a test that his professor told them nobody would pass. While he was studying, God told him to stop. So he stopped. During the test, he asked God to illuminate each problem for him. He ended up getting over 100%.
So, how do you have the strength to get up when you fall?
Anna asked if she could pray over me before I left. She asked some of her friends to join her. She prayed that I would be working from a place of rest and worship. She prayed for strength and peace to keep going in the midst of hardship.
When she finished, one of her friends touched my shoulder.
“Hey, I just had a quick word for you before you go,” he said.
“Go for it.”
“I feel like there was a time in your life when you didn’t know who you were. And then a bunch of women surrounded you and prayed over you, and they broke off all the lies you were believing about yourself. And I just feel the Lord trying to tell you that you blossom wherever you go. That’s just who you are. I just see you blossoming in every aspect of your life.”
“Wow,” I said. “God gave you that?”
“What’s your name?”
“Brandon,” he said, smiling.
“I’m Lea,” I shook his hand. “There was a point in college when I was just striving, and a bunch of women did surround me and break off all the lies I was believing about myself. But the journey didn’t end there.”
He smiled. “Lea, just hold out your hands. Just like that.”
I held them out in front of me.
“Just say, ‘God, thank you for understanding me. Thank you for loving me. ‘” I nodded.
“Say it,” he urged, gently.
“Thank you for understanding me. Thank you for loving me,” I repeated.
“I trust that you want what’s best for me,” he said.
“I trust that you want what’s best for me.”
“And I trust that you’re going to go there with me,” he said.
“I trust that you’re going to go there with me,” I repeated.
Winning the battle doesn’t depend on how great you are on the battlefield. It doesn’t depend on how many times you fall. It doesn’t depend on how hard those falls are or how broken you think you are. It doesn’t depend on how much more talented everyone else around you seems to be. You just have to love the Lord so much that you can’t help but want to surrender.
Christianity is not about behavior modification, but heart transformation. Falling deeper in love, learning, and healing is all about surrender. Love is the only way to get up after a hard fall. Love is the only way to have joy in the midst of the journey. And it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, because Jesus already paid the price for each one. Jesus already paid the price for everything we could possibly screw up on this earth. He did this so we could live unafraid to fall. He didn’t make us invincible from falling, but he paid the price so we could still be connected to Him, so we could experience real life. A real life that is full of ups and downs and beautiful, sappy moments. He did it out of love so we could experience the true joy of love.
So lift your hands. Close your eyes. Sing it out. Begin to lean closer and closer to Him. The strength to keep going doesn’t come from you. You can try to figure out how to run faster and be better or whatnot. Or you can simply fall, and fall into his arms. The second you surrender, God is in the battle. Do you know that he has equipped you uniquely for all the battles you will face? Do you know that questioning your ability to make it is completely normal if God is calling you to things that have never been done before? And God will win all your battles because He knows what is best for you and wants so badly to give you the desires of your heart. He’s after your heart, not your performance. He wants to take away your pain, the pain from falling, but not your joy.
“That’s all you gotta do,” he said.
Merry Christmas guys!! 💗