E-Letter 180

Posted by on Aug 29, 2014 in Devotions | 0 comments


My granddaughter stands at the top of a wooden play structure, surveys the work of her hands, and grins.  We’ve spent 15 minutes coloring the wooden floor and beams with sidewalk chalk, and now this budding artist is ready for a new adventure so she stretches out her arms, and pleads,“Up, up!”  “Go down the slide, Ingrid,” I coax her, but she stubbornly refuses to consider my perfectly reasonable suggestion. “Up, up!” she insists, and I try a new tactic. “Ingrid, let’s see if you can climb down the ladder.” But this toddler has a mind of her own and will not be dissuaded. I step forward and reach out my arms, and smiling, this bundle of sweaty, chalk-covered sweetness falls into my arms and laughs.

Poised like a queen in her red plastic car with two pieces of chalk clutched in her little hands, Ingrid and I begin our trip up the slight hill to her home, and with every step, my back reminds me of the cost of catching her. There was a time, I recall, when I dreaded falling.  Every afternoon, Miss Kenny, our second grade teacher, would take us to the playground after lunch, and we would race to the swings, slides, see saws, and monkey bars.  Someone, I don’t remember who, but probably Augie DiStefano, threw down the challenge that would separate the sheep from the goats among the second graders of the Roy B. Kelly Elementary School, “Climb to the top of the monkey bars and then drop, bar by bar, until your feet touch the ground!”

Every afternoon, I would dutifully climb to the top of the monkey bars, grab the highest metal bar and lower my body through the tangle of metal. Then I would hang on for dear life fighting the heat generated by my holding and the deadweight of my body until I dropped to the ground in defeat. The rest of the afternoon, I would sit at my desk, pencil in hand, furiously scribbling answers in my Think and Do Workbook, all the while, the metallic smell of my palms reminding me that what I had to do was believe that I would catch the next monkey bar if I would just swing forward like the trapeze artists in the Ringling Brothers Circus and let go.

Back in the whirlwind 1960’s, writer Marilyn Ferguson observed, “It’s not so much we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear…it’s like being between trapezes.  It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer.  There’s nothing to hold on to.”  There’s nothing to hold on to. What trapeze artists know is that the moment when there is nothing to hang on to is the moment when they are most present, most alive, most vulnerable, most human.  “Learn the trick before the fall,” is the first thing they are taught by the experienced flyers. In the practice of falling, the anxious learner discovers the right moment to let go. That moment of most risk, the moment of letting go, is when a flyer is transformed into an artist.

Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard said, “Without risk there is no faith, and the greater the risk, the greater the faith.” For this day that stretches out before me with all its mysteries yet to be revealed,  I will believe with the heart of a toddler that letting go takes faith.  I will believe with the heart of a second grader that faith takes letting go.  I will believe with the heart of an adult that in my falling, I will be caught in the monkey bar arms of a laughing God who will not let me go!