• By Jeni Ann Flores

A space to fall

It was my epic fall.

I was taken straight up 90 degrees to 415 feet high (about 38 stories). Totally vertical, I experienced weightlessness for 6.5 seconds. Then the “Superman: Escape from Krypton” hyper coaster slammed me straight down at almost 100 mph—faster than a speeding bullet, just like Superman.

I have never had a fall quite like that one before; nor will I ever again.

I remember other -- less extreme —times I have fallen.

Because I had mush for brains, I went to a MixxedFit class at the gym after lying in bed with a cold for days. I struggled with the dance moves because I had not been to this class for almost a year. Focus, Jeni Ann, focus. My feet got tangled. Then bam! I hit the floor. I saw myself falling in slow motion. The music and the instructor’s voice seemed deep and slow just like in the movies.

I got up from the floor without a bruise.

I taught at a new school three years ago. I did not see the pebble on the pavement next to the hydrant. I stepped on it, twisted my ankle, and bam! — down I went. I heard my laptop hit the pavement first. Uh-oh, I’m next, I thought. Thud, my knees hit the ground, then my side.

I got up with a bruised knee.

There are other ways we fall. There is someone I know well who has been in free fall for almost eight years now due to repeated loss, grief, and trauma. Destruction and damage came as a result. She was no longer a pleasant person to be with; so she lost friends. Her work and ministry deteriorated. Nobody figured out what was going on, least of all her. She suffered confusion and doubt—a humongous crisis of faith.

The last two months have been a slow motion global descent to malady. Some are grabbing things to bring down with them. Some are grounded with malaise. Some are getting up, ready to take on the future though it be strange and different. Many are asking, “Why, God?”

Author C.S. Lewis fell when his beloved wife died. It shattered his idea of God, which C.S. Lewis counted as a good thing. “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself…Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins… most are ‘offended’ by (this) iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not.”

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Jill Carattini, managing editor of Slice of Infinity, writes: “Death, grief, trauma, global pandemic, bankruptcy, the loss of hopes and dreams. We all experience these free falls. We are offended because we believe God caused them. Maybe it is time to shatter this idea of God. And … accept the soft landing on the foundation of faith in the one true God.”

The disciples of Jesus were discouraged and fearful after the death of their Lord at the cross. This was not part of the plan they had in their heads. Then they met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Carattini writes: “Jesus tells them that suffering and death of the Messiah were not to be understood as a defeat of God’s purpose, but as a necessary pathway to new life. And pointedly, profoundly, Jesus suggests that this is the very pattern of God: from death to life.... And out of the death of the Messiah himself God brings us to resurrection—first God’s, then our own."

“The journey to death…is an offensive journey to take with God. But blessed are those who take it. For theirs is somehow the kingdom of heaven…a kingdom able to hold death itself,” wrote Carattini.

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I chewed and stewed on the word “fall” for months after my falls. I was at a coffee shop one day when my pen fell. I bent down to pick it up, but instead of getting back up, I laid down my head on the chair next to me. From down there I had a great view of the floor, the underside of tables and chairs. I was alone and I knew I could easily hear footsteps if anyone approached. So I stayed there for a while.

Then I had an epiphany. Why do we have to stand right back up after we fall?

It took eight years for my friend to realize she had fallen. Though she still does not yet fully understand why what happened happened, she gave herself the space to fall. It is a gift she now gives others. It is a good place, she said, a place of humility, not humiliation. Our perspective changes. From there a quiet heart can hear the approach of nail scarred feet. From there we can sense the presence of One who says, “Peace. Peace be with you.” From there a quiet spirit can feel His strong hands help us up with the words, “Come with me. Let us be going.”

Jeni Ann Flores is an educator, blogger, and freelance writer. You may read more of her writing at https://teacherseditionflores.blogspot.com/. You may reach her at teachersedition.flores@gmail.com

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