I watched the Pixar film, Cars again recently. I love cheeky kids’ films. It’s one genre in which characters are created to be endearing. Sometimes the level of transformation that takes place within 93 minutes is a little too incredulous, but at least you know something happened in the main characters.

What struck me this time through was the relationship between Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson. Acrimonious to start, it naturally turns into a winning mentorship at the end. But that got me thinking–how often do youngish people get into a similar situation? For kids the lesson could translate to ‘don’t blow off older teachers.’ Yet there was certainly a message for adults, assuming that one has opportunity to connect with an other in a different age bracket. I’m thinking of those who work in an office setting (or similar), where what you’re doing today takes precedence over what you did yesterday. Congratulations, you won employee of the quarter! Now what are you going to do to earn it again next quarter? Or, how will you stay in the sights of the Big Boss? Past triumphs tend to fade in comparison to when we crash and burn. It’s no wonder that Doc hid his victory cups, or that he kept a reminder of his great crash.

When my uncle was in the hospital a few years ago, he hold me about a past episode in his life that caused a world of pain for a few people. I had heard something about this once before from another family member. But to hear my uncle recount it, undertones of guilt still pulsing, was like visiting a dusty cabinet of his heart’s curiosity shop: sad, and a bit unpleasant. I was amazed that he had held on to that memento long enough to share it with his youngest niece. Sitting with him in that place was far from a lesson in what (not) to do; it was a strange honor, a moment to listen and say under my breath, you’re forgiven in Jesus’ name.

As a young person, I hear a lot of messages about how to avoid pitfalls, traps and severe crashes. A lot of energy goes into any and all avoidance tactics. But I’ve already screwed up on a few occasions, and I probably will again. So, what do I do with it? When does it make sense to share a great crash? When is it better to share a victory cup?

The apostle, Paul, seemed to share both with equal emotion. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. (Gal 4.13-14) Perhaps that’s the way to do it: victory in one hand, defeat in the other, both held loosely. I don’t know how to do that just yet, but I know some folks who do.