Learning to Fall

Learning to Fall July 27, 2012
I came across this excerpt recently and it moved me. It’s from Philip Simmon’s book called “Learning to Fall”, and it is written from his perspective as a 35 year old husband, father and teacher diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease which killed him a few years later.
It’s the first time I have ever heard of “The Fall” as anything but this evil horrible disobedience of humanity that has led to all things that are wrong with the world. But it also speaks to me on a very basic level.
I used to think that being a Christian gave me this magic out. If I just lived the “right” way, and did all the “right” things, then life would be peaceful and calm, perfect as god was perfect. Whenever life was hectic, stressful, confusing or imperfect, I thought it was my fault. I just wasn’t being close enough to God. As time has gone on since Itook a break from my perpetual hamster wheel of trying to be close enough to God to be fixed from all my imperfection, I am slowly becoming OK with the imperfect.
I am a woman with an imperfect body, imperfect parenting abilities, imperfect housekeeping abilities, and imperfect relational knowledge. But even if I managed to make all of that perfect, it would still be impossible for me to control everything else. Like death, or illness, or loss of relationship. No matter how good I got at “standing on the solid rock” life was still out of balance.
And now, I’m OK with that. I’m learning to be OK with being unsteady, putting one foot in front of the other and stopping here and there to take a breath and catch my balance. I don’t have to pretend to have it all together anymore. Sometimes I am happy, sometimes I am not. Sometimes I am confident, sometimes I am depressed. Sometimes I feel beautiful, sometimes I don’t. And that doesn’t make me a bad or deficient person. Life throws curve balls. Life changes. Life isn’t always exactly what we planned. But, life is good, even though it isn’t perfect. In fact, all kinds of things are beautiful and good without being perfect. And in learning to be OK with falling, I’ve learned to be unashamed of getting back up. I’ve learned to embrace fear.
an excerpt from
Learning to Fall
The Blessings of an Imperfect Life
Philip Simmons

“My earliest memory: I’m standing alone at the top of the stairs, looking down, scared. I call for my mother, but she doesn’t come. I grip the banister and look down: I have never done this on my own before. It’s the first conscious decision of my life. On some level I must know that by doing this I’m becoming something new: I am becoming an “I.” The memory ends here: my hand gripping the rail above my head, one foot launched into space.

Forty years later, encroaching baldness has made it easier to see the scars I gained from that adventure. Still, I don’t regret it. One has to start somewhere. Is not falling, as much as climbing, our birth right? In the Christian theology of the fall, we all suffer the fall from grace, the fall from our primordial connectedness with God. My little tumble down the stairs was my own expulsion from the Garden: ever after I have been falling forward and down into the scarred years of conscious life, falling into the knowledge of pain, grief, and loss.

We have all suffered, and will suffer, our own falls. The fall from youthful ideals, the waning of physical strength, the failure of a cherished hope, the loss of our near and dear, the fall into injury or sickness, and late or soon, the fall to our certain ends. We have no choice but to fall, and little say as to the time or the means.


Think again of falling as a figure of speech. We fall on our faces, we fall for a joke, we fall for someone, we fall in love. In each of these falls, what do we fall away from? We fall from ego, we fall from our carefully constructed identities, our reputations, our precious selves. We fall from ambition, we fall from grasping, we fall, at least temporarily, from reason. And what do we fall into? We fall into passion, into terror, into unreasoning joy. We fall into humility, into compassion, into emptiness, into oneness with forces larger than ourselves, into oneness with others whom we realize are likewise falling. We fall, at last, into the presence of the sacred, into godliness, into mystery, into our better, diviner natures.”


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