When I was a kid and just learning how to ride my bike, I foolishly decided that I was going to ride down what seemed to me like the steepest hill in all the world.
There was a moment before I pushed off and began my descent that I remember thinking, "I'm not sure this was a good idea." or whatever the equivalent of that thought would be for a six-year-old boy. I'm sure it was more like, "Oh no! This is bad! Mama!? Dad!? Jesus!? Anyone!?"
By now you can probably tell where this story is going. Things got hinky fast as I picked up speed down that hill. The front tire began to wobble, and instead of trying to use my brakes, I stuck out my legs.
The thing about falling on asphalt from a bike when you're wearing shorts and traveling at what feels like the speed of sound is that it doesn't hurt at first. You feel it more intently, however, when you look down and see most of your leg and the palm of one hand skinned and bleeding. THAT's when it hurts.
I look back on that moment and wonder how I ever got back up on a bicycle again after that. Maybe it was peer pressure from other kids, or my parents encouraging me, but not long after my spill, I mounted my banged-up bicycle and began to ride again.
Funny, this was the memory that came to mind as I thought about the concept of "second effort" today. There have been other times in my life when I fell flat on my face and got back up again, but it was the bike/hill/fall story that made the cut. I suppose it was the purest moment for me.
Truth be told though, I've had more than a few moments in my life where I picked myself up after a spectacular fail and decided not to try again. The fall was too much, the pain too great to bear, and I didn't want to risk it.
I read this awesome quote from author and theologian Joan Chittister today. She writes:
The second effort makes or breaks the average person. The second effort either deadens the soul to the rest of life or redefines us to ourselves. The second effort becomes the "I can't" trap, the point after which we may never try again, or it becomes the "I can" truth that lifts us to a new level of courage forever.
If you find yourself flat on your face today, take heart. The effort to get up and keep going is worth all of the pain and the uncertainty that you may fall again. May you discover new reservoirs of strength for today and every day after today.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.