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  • Writer's pictureGreg Dover

Greg's Weekly Word: "trying"

(Taking a break this week from people's star word reflections. But don't worry: we'll be back to them next week!)

Do you read the word "trying" as an adjective? Or as the present participle of a verb?

As in, "That was a trying time," compared to, "I'm trying as hard as I can."

They are related - both from the root "try," which basically meant (and means) to separate out by examination or testing. And that kind of trying (the effort of the testing) can be trying (difficult and demoralizing)...especially when it doesn't seem to get you anywhere or produce anything.

Artistic portrayal of my feelings, most days

Because to try is to "test, examine, and separate out," it can be easy to separate the results of our efforts into either success or failure...with no in-between. I know I often do. And apparently I'm not the only one.

If you've been watching the Olympics (or the news about the Olympics), you may have heard of Mikaela Shiffren - a favorite in alpine skiing. And it's been interesting to hear commentators and reporters equate "success" for her to winning gold, or at the very least, winning a medal. But that's not what happened...

Apparently this is NOT how it's supposed to look

Shiffren fell in one event, ran off course in another, and did not medal in any. In fact, she didn't perform well in any of her events.

It was - even in her mind - a failure.

But I love what she said about her performance after her first event.

It is failure. It is OK to say that. I'm OK with that and I'm sorry for it. But I also was trying, and I'm proud of that... I can go back and say I won medals before in my career and that’s wonderful. But it doesn’t take away any hurt or disappointment from these races. And I think it’s possible to feel both proud of a career and sad for the moment you’re in.

To put in differently, Shiffrin herself is not a disappointment or a failure. Her performances in these Olympics may have been, but she is not.

It was refreshing to see and hear someone who could clearly acknowledge their sense of failure and feelings of disappointment, while at the same time uphold their own worth and the worthiness of trying - even (especially!) in such trying situations and circumstances.

It can be tempting to think of our faith and faithfulness - and our lives in general - as something in which we will either be a success or a failure. But while we will fail in our lives and in our faithfulness to God (after all, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" [Rom 3:23]), we should resist the temptation to consider ourselves a failure, or a disappointment. Maybe we can just consider ourselves human, and keep on trying.

One of my favorite Kyle Matthews songs is called "We Fall Down." He tells the story of a man whose life is trying, and as he passes a monastery he wonders what it must be like to live such a life of holy faithfulness. And when he meets one of the monks outside of the walls, he says, "Tell me of your life inside that place." And the priest replies,

We fall down and we get up

We fall down and we get up

We fall down and we get up

And the saints are just the sinners who fall down

And get up

The man returns home, disappointed. He had hoped for something more from the monk - some kind of spiritual secret. But then he realizes,

If the priest who failed could find the grace of God to be enough,

then there must be some hope for the rest of us

'Cause we fall down and we get up

We fall down and we get up

We fall down and we get up

And the saints are just the sinners who fall down

And get up

Or, in other words, who keep on trying.


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