Falling 101

photo by Trent Hancock

photo by Trent Hancock

I was staring at his feet.

His neck had already arched upwards into the air, smacking me in the chest—I couldn’t breathe.

My hands were gripping at the muscles along his chest, trying to push myself up while my legs hugged tight around his stomach.

Falling off of a horse is easy, but very rarely is it ever graceful. I’ve been riding since I was five, and the only thing I’ve gotten expertly good at is falling; it’s probably the only thing I’ll ever go pro at.

My horse’s name is Morpheus (Moe for short). When I got him, we were both veterans of the sport, trying to get back into it. Needless to say, my mentality adjusted a lot quicker to the idea of riding again than Moe’s did. You could say that I have fallen off of him almost as many times as I’ve fallen off of all the horses I’ve ever fallen off of since I was five.

The last time Moe and I had one of our little disagreements was in the arena.

It was a doozy.

We were facing a jump when I felt his body suck in a gulp of air underneath me. I braced myself, and in the next instant we were in the air as he rose onto his hind legs.

His neck arched upwards into the air, smacking me into the chest—I couldn’t breathe. Disoriented and seeing fuzzy black dots, I wrapped myself around his neck while his body came crashing back to the ground; I came flying down with it. Except he was rising up onto his back legs again, and I was still falling forward; his feet were right next to my face, and I thought to myself, “How the heck did you get yourself into this one, Jenna? You’re not supposed to be anywhere near his feet while you’re still on his back.” My hands started gripping at the muscles along his chest, trying to find a way to shove myself back on top of him while my legs hugged tight around his stomach. But he was coming back down.

Now, for onlookers, falling happens within seconds. When you’re actually the one falling, you’d be surprised how much time you have to think about things in the midst of flying through the air. And all the while, as my vision blurs and breathing is hard due to the pain in my chest, I’m coaching myself through the process:

Okay, Jenna, focus: your face is by his feet and yet you’re still on his back…the chances of you making it out of this one are very slim. Look around—where is the best place you can direct your fall? Into the middle of the arena? No, he could dart that way and trample you as soon as you hit the ground. Head towards the fence? It’s risky cause he could spook, and then you’ll be stuck. But it’s the best option you’ve got right now. Now think: what part of your body do you want to land on? Your back? That’s always dangerous, but at least you’ll be able to see him and his next move when you hit the ground. Your side! Go for your side! What’s a few bruised ribs? You can scoot out of his way as soon as you hit the ground. Okay, ready? Go!”

I couldn’t stand up straight for the next four days without my ribs burning and my lungs screaming at me. And while I was swallowing three more pills of Advil, it dawned on me: I’m a control freak. I am so much of a control freak that I actually plan the way that I’m going to fall.

This isn’t the kind of “controlling” where I have to be in charge of all the projects or where I boss other people in my life around. No, I’m the kind of controlling where I want to keep the tight grip on my life so that it goes the way that I want it to go, and all of the inevitable pain I have to suffer is avoided as much as possible because I’m going to plan out the way that I fall while I’m falling.

If it all sounds like it caused a lot of anxiety in my life, you would be right.

Because falling is never fun, but it should never be something you have to think about. It’s unavoidable, but should never be planned out.

And I think that maybe I didn’t figure out how to fall gracefully until I was sitting in a pretty white church bathroom, crying, and listening to God whisper, “I have called you to walk into a life you haven’t seen coming. I’ve wired you a certain way, and yes you’ve been walking towards the right path, but now you go right instead of left at this new fork in the road. Surprise. So get up and walk. Get up and walk down this new path, blindly. I’ll do the rest. Because you really have no idea what you’re doing in this.”

There was no plan. I had no idea what to do once I started walking down this new road that had a street sign with the word “ministry” plastered across it. Still, He said walk. Still, He has taken care of me and put doors in my path that I’ve been meant to open. Still, they were doors I had nothing to do with and would’ve never known to look for in the first place on my own.

I stopped white-knuckling my hold on my life the very minute that God blind-sided me with something new and beautiful and foreign. And can I tell you something? When you stop trying to protect yourself, stop trying to constantly “make sure” you’re “staying in God’s will” (these are sarcastic quotes because if I’ve learned anything over the past few months it’s that there is nothing in our lives that ever happens outside of God’s will like we are always afraid of happening—it’s all God’s will), stop trying to tell God how it is all going to be, stop trying to call the shots and take care of yourself and make your own decisions and patch up your own wounds—that’s when none of it ever actually feels like falling. It feels like peace. It feels like hope. It feels like freedom.

So stop thinking about where and how you’re going to land.

Just fall off the dang horse.

-Jenna Bednarsky // @jenbed

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