Nearly all of us have "fallen on our face" figuratively. We've promised God we wouldn't fall into the same old sinful trap and then turn around and stumble over the same temptation. We've torn apart a relationship because of repeated bad judgment, insensitivity, or just plain ol' sinfulness. We've ruined a good business because of continuing greed, arrogance, or success lust. We've spawned a feud with a family member and nurtured it with an unwillingness to ask for forgiveness and with an unwillingness to forgive. The list could go on and on.
If we are honest, we all know a little bit how Guo Xinxin of China felt when she fell on her face the other night at the Olympics. Guo had led the first round of Women's Aerials in freestyle skiing. However, when Evelyne Leu of Switzerland connected on her extremely hard triple summersault with three twists, Guo had to try a very hard jump to win. Her jump was beautiful in the air, but on her landing, her skis pulled apart and she missed her landing. Actually, she literally "fell on her face" with her arms and legs spread eagle with her landing. This not only cost her the Olympic gold medal, it also cost her a trip to the podium for any medal.
Like the old ski jumper in ABC's "agony of defeat" segment, that poor guy who missed his jump and bounced down the slope of the hill with his arms flailing, Guo was the "spectacle" in the "spectacle of sport." She was the morbid fascination of this winner-take-all made for TV drama. She even made the front page of our sports section. She was displayed face down in the snow, sliding down the landing hill with ice and snow splashing all around her.
Guo is from a sports culture where winning is so important — and these days it sure seems all cultures are pretty much that way about the Olympics. I have wondered how Guo will be received at home. Will she be lauded for attempting such a hard jump rather than simply settling for a medal? Will she be "scapegoated" for her failure to live up to her predicted victory? How does she feel inside about "falling on her face"? How will her friends and teammates help encourage her?
Over the years, I've literally seen thousands of posters, plaques, needlepoints, pictures, and banners displaying Isaiah 40:30-31. Nearly all of those have a picture of an eagle. I've never seen any with a person lying face down in the snow! While I love the majestic grandeur of these soaring eagles, I've come to believe that the real heroes are not those who soar like eagles. It's pretty easy to enjoy life and keep going when you're soaring like an eagle! My heart is now more often drawn to those who have stumbled and fallen, even "fallen on their face," and then they have gotten back up and kept on walking.
So here's to you, Guo XinXin. May you keep on walking. And if you do, I know you will take flight in the aerials once again. And here's to you — yes, you who have "fallen on your face" once again. Your failure matters more than Guo's because she failed at a game, no matter how important that game may seem. No, you have failed at your life. You're not sure you can go on. You're not sure you even want to try to go on. Even worse, you are not sure you are even worthy to be given another chance to go on. I want to simply remind you that the greatest of heroes are those who get up and keep walking after they have "fallen on their face," again. God's promise is for you, if you will summon the courage to believe ... and get up ... and keep on walking.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:30-31 NKJV)