“This is what the things can teach us: to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.” Rainer Maria Rilke
I pull up the sleeve on the sweatshirt my wife and mother are conspiring to burn and check to see if the scar is still abiding horizontally across my elbow. The scar remains and due to an unfortunate lease agreement will likely maintain residency until my end. I signed the lease when I was 9 years old and my dad, against his better judgement, slapped a butterfly patch on my elbow to stem the bleeding from my backward misstep off the fishing dock during low tide. I was trying to establish a better view of the Osprey, a local fishing eagle, when I stepped backward off the dock, fell the six feet, and landed spread eagle against the civilization of oysters and barnacles surfacing during low tide.
Brother barnacle and sister seashell were all quick to give me a parting kiss as new cuts and scrapes opened up across my arms and back. I crawled from the underbelly of the dock looking like the child of a swamp monster as my sister ran toward the house in either fear or for my father’s help. When I revisit this memory I can still smell the rubbing alcohol, feel the steam rising off the hot water, and see the counter turn red as my dad played paramedic but none of these memories is as strong as the weightless sensation brought on by falling.
I don’t enjoy the act of falling or the subsequent and unpleasant landing. I organize my life to prevent myself from most types of falling and for good reason but as seasons pass and I watch the leaves I feel there is a wisdom in falling well, in descending gracefully to the surface of all things. It is not from the heights but the depths that we learn wisdom and begin to take root in the soil blessed by the saints. In the heights we are blown about, tossed by the whims of the wind, clinging frantically to the fragile fingers of a tree, but it is in letting go, in falling that we discover grace. It is in the depths, after letting go, when we realize we are not the beholders but the ones being held. It is in the depths, submerged In powerlessness and vulnerability, where we hear the voice saying, “This is my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”
We don’t volunteer to fall in much the same way we don’t volunteer for grace and this is the burden and blessing of it. Lady Julian of Norwich once said, “First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God.” This cycle of falling and rising are the lessons of mercy carrying us ever deeper and ever closer to the heart of God with each downward tumble offering another invitation to receive grace and grow in love, and may we all grow with branches raised in adoration while under the surface we deepen and continue to move like rainwater trickling down toward the unimaginable grace and beauty of God.