God the Trampoline

Once when I was little(r), I watched my cousin do a back flip on her trampoline. She took gymnastics, I did not. She had learned how to do back flips, I had not. Still, it felt right in the moment. So I jumped, and I heaved my legs upward, tucked them in close, spun through the air…

…and promptly landed on my neck.

It was not my proudest moment.

However, if I’m being honest, I remember that really freaking me out. I didn’t know much about the spinal cord at that point, but I knew your neck was pretty important. And to land on it, awkwardly and with force, that scared me. It still kindof does when I think about it. Funny how life works like that.

If I’m being even more honest, that’s one of the problematic metaphors I have when it comes to God. I think about the implications of what would have happened had I tried that not on a bouncy trampoline, but on the grass next to it. Or on the rocks between the trampoline and the pool. Or on any solid ground.

And then I realize that one of my problems in my faith is the willingness to move one more step forward. I say, “no, God, I’m pretty good right here. I can love You enough from over here.” Every step I take closer to the immeasurably good and inconceivable perfection that is God is one more chance to try that back flip for the first time. Every step closer is harder than the one before it, and that means I’m going to hit my limit of what I can do. So, trying to grow in faith is just an invitation to fail. It’s one more chance to stick my neck out, one more chance to falter and realize just where it is I stop being enough in my own. And that, if I’m going to continue being honest, is terrifying. Many days, weeks, even, it’s better not to know what that next step feels like.

And here’s where this awful metaphor gets doubly horrific – I know that God is no bouncy trampoline. God is a rock. God is solid. The world may readily condemn, but the world also readily permits. The world does not balance justice and grace, but rather judgement and forgetfulness. It is simply too shallow to be lasting. The world is a trampoline. But God, God is deep and God is lasting and God is solid and what if I fall on this rock, and what if I try to twist and raise up my legs only to land awkwardly on my neck again? What if I’m proven too weak to approach God? What good am I to anyone then? What worth will I see in myself if I’m lying broken on the ground?

Of course, this metaphor has some weight to it. Because God is no trampoline, and yes, it does in fact hurt when I fall and land awkwardly. It does in fact break parts of me that I thought were important. God is solid, unyielding – and trying something I’m not capable of is not a path of comfort, nor of ease. It is toil and pain and struggle and frankly too hard sometimes. But that’s only part of the picture.

For all of the pain that comes with failure, there is always a recognition of its worth. Every time I fall, it doesn’t just show me where my capabilities to live the abundant life I want stop, it shows me the incredible healing of a God who doesn’t just heal but restores. My pain is made to weakness, yes, but my weakness is made to power. My wounds are physical, but the hurt is deeper. God takes it all and through grace restores to me the gift of willingness. Willingness to try again. Because even though step two is much harder than step one, and it is far more likely that I will fail again, I know that God is making me stronger with each time I break.

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