Just a few days ago one of the most thrilling auto races ever to take place, occurred at the Daytona 500, where two racing cars crossed the finish line almost simultaneously, with the winning car doing so by reaching the finish line 0.01 of a second ahead of the next car. It was a photo finish, where only by means of a photograph (not the naked eye) could the winner be discerned.
It was a near miss for the loser, but a near victory for the winner. How should we regard near misses? Are they to be viewed positively or negatively? The answer might be: the winning driver could exult if he/she was expected to lose; and the losing driver could grieve, if he/she was expected to win. On the other hand, the winning driver could worry, if he/she was expected to win “big”, just as the losing driver could exult if he or she was expected to lose, as they say, “big time”.
Near misses don’t have to occur in a competitive exercise but they frequently seem to involve two or more participants. Two airplanes can be involved in a near miss while approaching the runway of an airport. Two planets/asteroids can be part of a near miss while pursuing their space trajectory. But in either case, they are not competing against one another.
Near misses always involve effort of one kind or another, which may engage the concentration of just one person, such as a student taking a test. He or she may experience a “near” miss, meaning that the student came very close, either to passing the test, or to failing the test. But the common denominator, in any case, is that a threshold was just missed, whether for good or for bad.
A near miss can occur in a game of chance, involving, for instance, the power ball, where a near miss doesn’t depend on someone else winning or losing, but depends solely on an individual player, who may or may not be known to other players, and who is not dependent on what happens to them in order to experience a near miss. For one can lose whether he or she is one of millions playing, or the only one doing so.
And so it is in our relationships with other people. We can experience a near miss in striking up a relationship with another. The initial “chemistry” may have seemed right or encouraging, but, with the passage of time, what was becoming a very close relationship becomes frayed, and on the verge of dissolving. This may initially prove to be painful, but, with the passage of time, it may become evident that the “near miss” (meaning failure to seal a relationship) proves to be a blessing in disguise.
And this may also occur in our relationship to God. In this case a near miss may mean that one was on the verge of cementing a cohesive bonding with God, or, on the other hand, a person was at the point of dissolving a relationship with God that had grown quite close. In this regard, we think of Judas’ relationship with Christ in its beginning stages. There is no reason to believe it was any less close than that of any of the other apostles. But, with the passage of time, the phenomenon of the near miss, that is, the cementing of the relationship between Christ and Judas, fails to achieve cohesion.
So the near miss can intertwine itself with many facets of our lives. And it can involve either a benefit, or a loss. A marriage-in-the-making may proceed on its way, and conclude with a cementing of the budding relationship, perhaps after having undergone the near miss of dissolving. On the other hand, it may arrive at the threshold of a permanent commitment, and then encounter a near miss in that regard, and dissolve.
The near miss is an elusive quirk to an experience. An element of chance is caught up in it. Some call this “luck”. But, of course, there is good luck and bad luck. Some feel they are constant victims of bad luck. Others may modestly acknowledge that they are the beneficiaries of good luck. In either case the near miss is an experience woven into its fabric.
Is the near miss part of a gamble, or taking a chance? Probably no more than God undergoes in His dealings with us. Each time, do each of us represent a near miss He is willing to take in our regard?
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.