Back when I was in college, my campus’ center had lots of activities for all students to participate in. I worked for the rec center so I knew the people putting on the event and wanted to hang out with them because I love new adventures and people. One of these activities was slacklining. If you don’t know what that is, it is when you try to stand on a one inch wide rope hanging in the air and walk from one point to another. It looks something like this:
As you can imagine it is an easier said than done thing. The trick is to have loose knees and be able to have your arms counterbalance your weight, so you want to hold them in a curved fashion and be ready to move them. One arm up and the other arm is down, and the arm up in the air should be the opposite one of your leg that is in front/has the most weight on it. Since the rope is really bouncy you need to be able to “go with the flow”.
Why did I just explain this to you, so you can see how in my mind that is an easy enough explanation, so it must be a semi easy activity. I also consider myself a pretty “go with the flow” person and figured, “how hard can it be?” Well.. very hard. After a dozen tries I was finally able to balance enough to take one step before falling off. Due to who I am, I became quickly frustrated and then angry. I wanted to succeed but I wanted to get it easy, it was supposed to be a fun hobby, not something I actually needed to work for.
When I didn’t get it immediately, I became angry at the idea of not being able to do something “easy”. Now this activity was hauntingly difficult; I wanted to feel a sense of pride and move on with my life.
After half an hour, I was getting ready to just leave when my boss turned to me and casually said “hey, don’t give up so easily. You have a bit of balance, but every time you start to fall and you just give in. Try a little more and just don’t give up so easily.”
My mind in that moment, seriously looked like this:
I doubt she had any idea just how much that hit me. Why in that moment several things connected in my mind, I will never know. But the simple phrase “don’t give up so easily” completely blew my mind and reached to more levels than I would have expected.
I realized that she was so right. In this “simple” activity, things had not gone the way I wanted and at the first sign of adversity, I did not fight back and just fell down instead. I attempted slacklining a few more times. Although I didn’t progress much further, I did feel more accomplished because this time when the rope was causing me to lose my balance I would now try even more to keep my balance or counteract the pushes I felt. I left that activity with some classic advice that I had never really paid attention to before.
I began to see how that also related to my relationship with God and other people. I get expectations of what I believe relationships should look like, whether that is with friends or God. Then at the first sign of adversity I can easily shy away, assume I’m failing, and figure I will never get any further. But just because I am failing does not mean I am a failure. Like my boss said “don’t give up so easily”: so I began to push back. Adversity makes us stronger. There still needs to be love in the push back because as St. Paul writes “love is not pompous” (1 Corinthians 13:4). One aspect of love is to want to be better for others and to better the other person. If I just let this wash over me and give up then I am not doing myself or others any justice. I think C.S. Lewis sums this up perfectly when he said, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it”.
This advice I received three years ago now has been really helpful for me, this Lent in particular. Lent may have passed by super quickly or maybe it was really slow for you, but I have felt like I have been failing over and over again. It would be easy for me to quit when it feels like I am making no progress, but I remember my lesson from before. I was not going to give up. Every time this Lent that I didn’t keep my Lenten promise or didn’t think I was doing as well as previous Lents, I gave that to Jesus or confided in others and got the same answer back: I am not enough, but that doesn’t mean to stop giving my all. A good reminder for me (and maybe you too) is that Lent does not depend on me because I am not Jesus. If I have to fail in some way everyday to remember that it’s Jesus who is the Savior then I will gladly fail so that I may better rely on Him. You failing does not mean you are a failure, it means you need a Savior. And guess what, you have one! When life pushes you down or God pushes you to grow, either stand through the trial or get back up when you fall. The point is not to immediately understand, all you can give is your best. Only you and God know what that is.
My friends, today begins the Triduum. And Jesus is about to look like the biggest failure in all of history. He is about to be beaten, humiliated, rejected, abandoned, and killed. He asked for this cup to pass, but accepted His trials and all the pushing around. Follow His example of humility but hear this advice again until you live it: “don’t give up so easily”.