“Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest, Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God’s grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing so until the day of your death. For it is written, ‘If a righteous man falls seven times’ – that is, repeatedly throughout his life – seven time ‘shall he rise again. … Be like a brave soldier who faces the blows of the enemy; and God will commend you, because even when struck you refused to surrender or run away.” ~The Philokalia
Why is a book of instructions to monks talking about running, falling, and athletes? Because the quest for spiritual enlightenment is much like an athletic contest. It is not a race in the sense of trying to be the first to the finish line, it is more a contest of stamina and constant struggle against those forces that wish to prevent your spiritual growth.
As this quote implies, the successful athlete is not one who never falls, or never fails, because that just doesn’t happen. As the old say goes, “The only one who never fails is the one who never tries.” The successful athlete is the one who gets up after a fall, wipes himself off, and starts running again. The first time Michael Phelps tried to swim across an Olympic-sized pool, he probably barely made it alive. The first time he won a gold medal was not his first, second, or even third time swimming a race. There were probably many hundreds of races behind that first gold medal. Continue reading “Effort Produces Results”