Rafael-Nadal_93Yes, that’s Prince holding a scepter while watching Rafael Nadal play at the French Open this past weekend. Larry David rocked a cape in a Seinfeld episode, but it didn’t catch on. I’m not holding out hope for the scepter as a fashion accessory fad, but I’m kind of rooting for it. Best line in the USA Today article? – “Meanwhile, the folks at Prince, the tennis equipment company, looked at Prince watching tennis and couldn’t believe they never made this connection before.” Nadal seemed to respond well to the presence of “royalty”, making quick work of his opponent in his fourth round match 6-1, 6-2, 6-1. The article went on to say that Prince had, the night before, invited Nadal to be his guest at his concert that evening. Even if Nadal had gone on to lose the next day, at least he could have gone down knowing that Prince wanted to hang out.

Along with a few others here, I learned a new term a few weeks back – “celebratory failurism” – defined as “the idea that believers cannot obey the Law and will fail at every attempt… [in fact] failure is ultimately cause to celebrate because it makes grace all the more beautiful.” While considering this definition, I can’t help but think back on Prince (decked out in royal garb) coming to watch Nadal play, and initiating with him to spend some time together before the match and regardless of it’s outcome. When one of royal pedigree reaches out to us and wants community with us “just because”, it’s worth celebrating.

Had Nadal “failed” (lost the match), it would not have made being invited to hang with Prince sweeter. However, it could be argued that the unconditional invite from Prince empowered Nadal with the “freedom to fail” – knowing that someone who matters appeared to love him whether or not he came home with a trophy. For the believer, when the vertical relationship is right, there is complete freedom to press into horizontal relationships and performances without regard for the need to receive love and acceptance. So, celebratory failurism? No thanks, but celebrating the freedom to fail because I’m square with the king? I’m all in.

The concept, while exciting, is difficult to make practical. What does it look like to celebrate the freedom to fail? It looks  a little like Rafael Nadal playing tennis like he was born to do it. It looks a lot like someone daring to give and receive love without regard for how it is received, or if it is returned. We don’t see it very often, and we’re not particularly good at it, but when we see it, we recognize it, because the king set it up that way, and he loves to watch us try to give it a go.