Of Mohawks, Denim Shorts and Tennis Tournaments: What Andre Agassi can teach us about failure

Posted by Craig Borlase on 12 May 2014

Andre Agassi - that Vegas-hustling, chest-hair-waxing, grand-slam-winning - champion is a perfect case study for a blog on worship. Don’t believe me? Read on.

Admittedly, it’s hard to get much inspiration out of that that My Little Pony-hair, his flirtation with crystal-meth and that a pliable relationship with good fashion. And we’re going to struggle to get much out of the fact that he was briefly married to a former child actress and then had a liaison with a woman almost three decades his senior. Similarly we’re a bit stuck when it comes to the fact that his story featured burgers. Lots of burgers.

But there’s more. And for that, we need a bit of this:

Andre graph

Just take a look at that line. It tells the whole story, even at first glance. That gash in the middle speaks of a rapid decline, a terrible decent down into the depths. Yes, we are still talking about tennis, but it’s clear that within the space of a year Agassi went from being one of the world’s best players to pretty much falling off the radar.

But then comes the equally rapid climb back up, a return to form.

He goes down into the valley. And then he comes back up.

Look a little closer and the line becomes even more interesting. Between 87 and 96 Agassi’s year end ranking was barely stable, and there’s an air of inevitability about the mini-crash that takes place in 93, as if he was in some way getting ready for the major annihilation of 97. But what follows from 98 onwards is smoother, calmer, more assured and stable. No more mini-crashes or wipe-outs. In the final seven years of his career, Andre Agassi was a model of consistency, an altogether more dependable player who bowed out to cheers and column inches proclaiming him one of the greats of the game.

Agassi went through something that many of us experience. Okay, so our crashes may well be less dramatic and will almost certainly be less public, but the truth remains the same: for many of us there is a point in life when all that we have to unlearn some principles and ditch some assumptions that are holding us back. For some of us, failure is the gift that allows us to grow.

All of us who know that we have sinned and that we have been saved can appreciate the value of the V on Agassi’s graph. We know what it is to become aware of our imperfection and submit to God’s kindness, grace and mercy as He leads us towards a better way of living.

If we look close enough, life is full of small Vs. We are constantly having to be open to correction, to see with fresh eyes what we have misunderstood and have God correct our course once more, leading us up and out towards Him.

Let’s not be embarrassed to share the truth of our progress. Let’s be real about the hard stuff, honest about the lessons we’re learning, brave about the struggles.

And let’s learn to see the bottom of the valley for what it so often is: the place where we are humbled enough to truly allow God in.

So, may you and I know failure today - the kind that brings us closer to God and further away from sin.  

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