Adventure playgrounds, even ones designed for toddlers, are not the place for the faint-hearted grandparents.
Nevertheless Jacqui and I took Ana, Joy and Zoe, all on their scooters to the nearby Burgess Park in South London. And they had a great time, climbing, swinging, jumping and sliding.
Thankfully this brand-new facility is well designed – and they were wearing their scooter safety helmets. So it wasn’t too stressful watching two year old Zoe trying to balance her way along a log felled across a foaming river packed with hungry crocodiles.
She was learning an important lesson, how not to fall. And an even more vital skill, how to fall.
I have poor natural balance. Each January I do my best to avoid running in the Parbold Hill Race. It’s not the hill nor the mud which is the problem – it’s the ever-present danger of falling headlong.
Very simply I do not know how to fall – I lack the technique. So as all the other runners leap over a fence at the bottom of a steep slope at six miles, I carefully pick my way over it – and lose another 15 places. It’s embarrassing.
In the Christian life we need to learn how not to fall – and how to fall. The two go together. But there is a pastoral problem here, to teach the highest standards for holy living and yet to anticipate failure without settling for second best.
“So I say, live by the Spirit,” writes the apostle Paul, “and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5:16),
We are called to live our lives at the highest setting.
That’s where we begin. As disciples of Jesus we need to learn how to maintain our balance, our spiritual poise. Essentially this means learning how to deal with temptation so that in the power of the Holy Spirit we learn to walk like Jesus.
The danger is that when we fall (and it is a “when”, not an “if” – see
1 John 1:8) we stay down, discouraged by failure. I tried it and it didn’t work. So we give up.
So we need to learn how to fall.
George Verver, who launched Operation Mobilisation, is a Christian leader of awesome self-discipline. He aspires for the very best, to live a life which truly honours God – “my utmost for his highest” to coin a phrase from Oswald Chambers. Yet one of George’s most remarkable sermons was on how to fall. You don’t just lie there in
the mud, face down, You claim the blood of Jesus and claim God’s
free forgiveness, and then get up and get going in God’s power. Each time.
Just like me in the Parbold Hill Race – although next January I will probably have another cold.