Courage, Backflips, and Bucketlists
I have always wished I could do a backflip. Now, the type of backflip I’m referring to is not a backwards roll or a back handspring. I’m talking about the backflip where you throw your entire body backwards, tuck your knees to your chest, and pray to God that you have the momentum to land on your feet rather than your head. Mastering the art of successfully landing a backflip actually used to be something on my bucket list, but not anymore.
Let me tell you the backstory to my backflip experience.
One summer, my aunt and uncle were having a family reunion on Lake Michigan. A good portion of my cousins were going to be there, and I don’t get to see them all that often. The reunion always falls on Labor Day weekend, and we spend the majority of the time hanging out on the beach.
On this particular trip, as we were hanging out, I noticed two guys doing all kinds of gymnastics on the sand. Their acrobatics were impressive, least of which was a backflip. I talked to them a little bit, hoping to get a few tips on learning the art of doing a backflip.
As it turns out, one of the guys was a trainer and he taught people how to… yup… do backflips! It was my lucky day. Finally, I would be able to impress everyone with my new skill.
They told me a few tips and tricks, and then they took me to a spot on the beach where the waves had formed a drop-off in the sand. By standing on the edge of the “step,” I would have a few extra inches to get in my rotation before landing on the soft sand. It was the perfect place to learn, and the perfect opportunity with my personal trainer.
I was so nervous to try, but the guys assured me that they were spotting me, and no matter what happened, they would catch me — after all, they had trained many newbies just like this. I finally got up the courage and jumped. Their arms were positioned on my lower back and as I jumped and tucked, they gave my back a little push and I flipped around and landed on my feet! Not graceful by any means, but I was alive!
The flipping was disorienting. My mind was trying to process the jumping, spinning, and landing process. They encouraged me to try it again, and I did. Again and again I flipped, each time getting more comfortable, controlled, and confident. And each time, I got a little nudge to help me complete the rotation.
My teachers were convinced that their taps were not necessary, and that I was holding back a little because of the crutch that was their spotting. So, taking their advice, I was going to do my first ever solo backflip. By now, many of my cousins, aunts, and uncles had gathered around, ready to witness one of my bucket list items being crossed off the list.
On the count of three, I bent my legs and threw myself into the air with more umph than any of my previous attempts to compensate for the lack of external nudges. In some ways, it went in slow motion, but in reality, it happened so fast that I wasn’t sure what happened. All I knew was that I was in pain. My knees hurt, my face hurt, my neck was sore, and I was more than slightly embarrassed.
After processing my pains and asking those watching, I deduced that my feet easily went over my head, but my head landed in the sand first stopping it instantly and doing a number on my neck. My legs, however, kept traveling at full speed until my knee collided with my face giving me a fat lip. It could have been worse.
That was when I decided that I didn’t really need to learn how to do a backflip.
We are all called to be courageous in our Faith, but not the life risking, crazy stunt type of courage. I read that courage is the balance between fear and recklessness. I like that. We can’t be afraid; Jesus tells us that many times. St. Pope John Paul II used “Be not afraid” as his catch phrase. But that doesn’t mean we should go out and risk our lives for a kitty cat. We need to be thoughtful, not reckless with our bravery.
If I’m completely honest, it probably takes me more courage to stand up for my faith in a crowded room full of people who don’t believe the same things as me than it did to try that backflip by myself on the beach. It also takes real courage to defend marriage as the institution that God created between one man and one woman. It takes courage to proclaim that the Eucharist truly is the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It takes courage to pray in public.
What kind of courage do you have in your life? Is it the courage to do some crazy stunt to impress your friends, or is it the kind of courage that can change hearts and bring both you and others to Christ? Or do you need to pray for more courage?
With your faith, do you lean toward the side of fear or recklessness?
Have courage… the real kind. Don’t be afraid to share your faith. Stand up for what is right regardless of the risks. I’m going to keep taking risks, but a backflip isn’t one of them.