Whenever I hike during the summer in Virginia, I am painfully aware that I grew up in upstate New York. I had nearly downed my water bottle half-way into today’s hike, and that barely made up for what my body was sweating off. The hike today was a staff bonding experience to Seven Springs, a beautiful deep woods location that involved “some” downhill trekking and mild maneuvering over rocks and crossing a stream via a 2×4 bridge. I was reassured I would be fine. Admittedly, I was less than convinced.
It really is an achievable hike, I admit. But I am more accustomed to scaling piles of grant reviews and manuscript revisions than slick, rooted mountainside slopes leading to natural springs. Suffice it to say: I was the first to do a sliding side-roll down a hillside. Other than my ego, nothing was bruised. And even that didn’t hurt….I found myself surrounded by helping hands and encouraging remarks that made my lack of grace seem like a minor hiccup. I was reminded in that moment that it isn’t really the falling that we fear. What more often trips us up is the fear of being seen and losing face. On the contrary, with supportive community and my jeans already dirty, I was a lot more willing to take risks in muddy places and navigate the messy moments of the remaining hike without a second thought. The fall actually made it easier for me to be myself, and to enjoy the sights and sounds of the present moment. Which, in our travel, was to a beautiful, cold-water spring.
My chaplain lesson for the day lies in this juxtaposition: sometimes it requires a fall to see how much support surrounds us. Falling takes us off our pedestal of “doing it right” in favor of experiencing the journey of the present moment. True redemption is experiencing those moments for all the divine potential springing forth, roots and falls and springs. Thanks be to God.