While watching the figure skating for the Winter Olympics in Sochi this year, I take my usual posture—sitting on the edge of the couch, eyes glued to the skater, heart pounding. I love the beauty and grace with which the athletes perform. But my heart skips a beat for a second as they prepared to jump. In that instance, I hold my breath and wonder, “Will they make it or will they fall? And if they fall, how will they recover?”
There is an old Japanese proverb that reads, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” It refers to showing fortitude during the trials of life. It is meant to be an encouragement to us—no matter how many times we might fail at a task, have the strength to get up and try again. We have a similar saying in the western world—“get right back up on the horse that threw you.” No matter how you say it, the words are meant to inspire you to never give up, especially if the goal toward which you’re working is admirable.
But even the Olympic figure skaters must feel discouraged after a painful and costly fall. And yet they finish their routine with dignity and they get back on the ice the next day to practice. Imagine if, after their seventh fall during practice, they decided to quit. They would never know their true abilities as a skater. We would never know them for the Olympians that they are.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf , Second Counselor of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “No one likes to fail…We all want to be respected and esteemed. We want to be champions. But we mortals do not become champions without effort and discipline or without making mistakes.” (“You Can Do it Now!” by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf Oct. 2013)
“Our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble, but the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.” (“You Can Do it Now!” by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf Oct. 2013)
We may not be Olympic athletes, but it’s safe to say we have Olympic-size goals in our spiritual lives. Maybe we strive for family happiness—just one day where everything goes well; no fights, no hurt feelings, no misunderstandings—family harmony. We do all we can to build a loving atmosphere in our homes, only to find tension and strife at the door, doing its best to batter down our dreams.
Maybe we strive to be closer to the Savior in our personal lives. We may make the goal to read our scriptures again the way we used to, when our testimonies were fired up with the spirit of the Lord. Maybe we decide to pray again the way we used to, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, aching to feel the Savior wrap his loving arms around us. Maybe we decide today is the day to come to church again and take the sacrament. But the doubts of our own worthiness step in the way of our progress and block the spiritual hand reaching out to help us up.
Or maybe we are doing all these things, taking the usual falls with dignity like the figure skaters do and getting right back up again, but something else is missing—stepping out of our comfort zone. Maybe the goals to be more missionary-minded, more temple-worthy, or more service-oriented have been too great a weight on our shoulders. Maybe they represent the leaps of faith too ambitious for us to master, like a quadruple combination jump that is just out of reach for the gold medal contender. Maybe we think it’s not worth the fall.
Trust and Rely on the Promise of God.
We are beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. He loves us no matter how many times we fall. He promised never to leave us, and he has not failed yet in that promise. When we rise up each morning with this knowledge—this understanding of how precious we are to him—it is as if we are lifting ourselves up from yesterday’s falls, doubts, fears, and disappointments. We start our day standing in the light, standing in the truth, standing hand in hand with our Savior.
Think of the story of Christ raising Jairus’s daughter from her bed. She was considered dead, but he came to her side. With the power and authority he held as the Son of God he raised her from the dead. Is this not the perfect example of our relationship with Christ in our spiritual journey? Does he not reach down to us daily, hourly, and say “take my hand, rise up?” If we search deep in our souls, if we listen to the still small voice, we will hear his voice. If we look with our spiritual eyes, we will see his hand. If we trust with our spiritual heart we will rise up again, to try another day.
“There will be times when you think you cannot carry on. Trust the Savior and His love. With faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the power and hope of the restored gospel, you will be able to walk tall and continue on.” (“You Can Do It Now!” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Oct. 2013)
Falling is part of our human experience. It is what helps us grow. Our Father in Heaven sees the spiritual Olympian in you. Rise up! Allow the atonement to set you back on the right path. Then follow in the footsteps of our Savior. He leads the way to a glorious future, a future that is ours to claim, one step at a time.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.