…quipped Thomas Edison to his colleagues. The man who invented the light bulb is estimated to have had approximately 2000 experiments that failed, before he saw the light. Ted Engstrom* encapsulates this philosophy in a wonderful way as relating to God’s grace – “God does not expect perfection; He expects obedience. And through obedience He can turn failures into triumphs”. Over the last year, we have tried to adopt that same attitude in our home – that we are not making mistakes, but having an education and looking for how God is going to use our weaknesses as opportunities for growth.
Nowhere has this theory been so well tested as my experience of learning to ride a unicycle! Mr T got the unicycle bug just over a year ago, shortly after learning to juggle. In fact, he asked for one as a Christmas present, but I didn’t really think he was serious, until one day this Spring he bought himself a unicycle off Ebay and began to learn. I really couldn’t see the appeal – it principally appeared to be an education of falling off and sustaining various bruises, although thanks to protective pads and helmet, no broken bones. However, Mr T persevered and soon began to be riding with some panache, albeit still using the wall for balance and the falls were fairly infrequent. He was actually doing bunny hops too (now he can ride a short distance without holding on to anything.) Not only this, but with only unicycling he was getting very toned and strong. Unicycles have no freewheel, so you have to pedal constantly and you quickly build up core muscle to balance and strength in your legs and arms for control and riding. Looking for a unicycle for Miss G, I found one my size on Ebay and bought it (what craziness was going through my mind???) It arrived just over 2 weeks ago and I began to learn how to fall off.
The first day, I literally fell on my butt twice. Another reasonably frequent injury was a thwack on the shins or back of the leg from one of the pedals. I was pretty bruised, however, I was totally hooked. There is something about the unicycle – it is a lot of fun. I know, you are not going to believe me, but it is, even when you are falling off… a lot.
By the end of the first week, through all my falls I had learnt the feeling of not being balanced and was able to correct myself or step off, sans injury. By the end of the second week I was able to do very short distances and step off, without falling. In the last couple of days I have been actually unicycling along the wall, doing pretty well and the injuries and falls are pretty infrequent. My body is already stronger and I can see a difference in looser clothes and just feeling better – my posture is also greatly improved, as you have to be sitting up straight, or yes, you’ve guessed it – you fall off!
You don’t need to learn to ride a unicycle to benefit from Edison’s philosophy and God’s grace (although, can I say, it is awesome fun). But I think you can learn the same lessons in life. After I had fallen off and hurt myself – my body was scared of being hurt again – though my crazy mind said, keep going! I think it can be the same every time we experience a fail – there can be fear that it is going to go wrong again – I think generally we just fear to fail, or look silly. However, it is so important to get up and try again otherwise we will never achieve anything. Imagine if Edison had given up after the 100th try, or the 1000th try of inventing the light bulb. Maybe we would still be literally in the dark in the evenings.
It is only in embracing our failures and using them to grow – even if it is just saying, “I have learnt another way NOT to do it,” – that we will move forward.
With God on our side we are capable of far more than we could ever imagine. The Bible is filled with people who failed, but who God used anyway and who became people of faith and triumph who still inspire us today. So when you blow it today, think – “this is not a mistake, but my education!”
Life is a leaf of paper white
Whereon each one of us may write
His word or two,
And then comes night.
Greatly begin, though thou have time
But for a line,
Be that sublime
Not failure, but low aim, is crime.
James Russell Lowell
Be encouraged 🙂
* Ted W. Engstrom quoted from The Pursuit of Excellence – a fantastic book, which I think everyone should read!
P.S. Time wise, I probably spent and still spend around 5/ 10/ 15 minutes twice a day, pretty much every day practising. I was limited by getting tired quickly in the beginning. It has been fairly easy to do, as I have just practised out in the garden while the children have been playing outside. To be honest, the time goes very quickly, as you don’t really notice that you are working out, as you have so much to think about, or perhaps not to think about. There is an odd thing that as soon as I think, “Look at me, I’m unicycling” I fall off. Apparently this is a common thing. So, I try not to think about being able to unicycle, but concentrate on looking forward, holding my body upright, working out how balanced my body is, making sure no small child is running across the path etc. and save congratulating myself when I step off at the end. Maybe this phenomenon is an illustration of pride comes before a fall?!