Failure to Launch

Once upon a time, I was a miniature gymnast. I was no prodigy and I quit before I even hit puberty, but for a few years, I twirled around Gymini Gymnastics in Herndon, Virginia the very best I could. It seems like a lot of little girls go through their own gymnastics phase, because there’s something magical about watching the pros perform. It is as though they are flying. And so on Saturdays, there I would be-- twirling and cartwheeling and trying my absolute hardest to do the splits, sure that maybe one day, I could do my own share of flying.

I generally got along okay with each of the events, uneven bars being my favorite, but the vault was the activity that gave me the most trouble. I was fine at first and I would run down the lane and jump on the springboard and the instructor would spot me as I’d do a simple straddle jump or a front handspring. But one day when I did a front handspring, I messed up. My arms collapsed under me and my head hit the vault and because I was only eight years old and a little squirt, my instructor caught me before I fell to the ground. Truthfully, I don’t remember it hurting very much. I mostly remember being scared.

From that point on, I would run to the end of the lane and right before I was to jump on the springboard, I came to a halt. I couldn’t make myself jump. My instructor sent me back to try again and when I failed to launch the second time, she’d send me to the back of the line so the next girls could have their turn.

I didn’t have the self-awareness that I do now when I was eight (a real mercy), but looking back at it now, this feels like a true turning point for me. I default to fear on my best days and it looks just about the same. I run forth with some semblance of courage, but often find myself stopping short of the end goal, the real hurdle that’s required. I can mentally get myself down the lane, but the mental block plants itself right at the point of my launch.

And eventually, this is where my rift with gymnastics came in. I dreaded going, knowing that I’d have to try to do the vault and that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I dreaded it so much that eventually I quit.

I won’t pretend that I am a true talent that missed her calling out of fear. The world is not missing out on my gymnastics career, believe me. But the consequence came in another form. At a young age, I let fear define whether or not I was going to keep on keeping on. I let fear have the last word. I let fear have so much power that it stole some of the simple, lovely things that go along with being a kid. It might sound melodramatic from the other side of the screen, but I see these patterns in my life as an almost-24-year-old and I don’t think they popped up out of nowhere.

I am hoping now will become a new turning point for me. Confession and truth-telling, even if they are seemingly silly stories about our tiny human selves, allow us freedom to go a new way, to say a firm and resolved “no” to the way we have operated, to choose the better portion God has for us. God shows us what place fear has in our lives and promises to trample it under his feet. I only wish I’d let him do it sooner.

God of mercy, send out your light and your truth. Allow us to jump, believing with all our hearts that you are mighty to catch us. Amen.

Kelsey // @kelskingmiller