CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
I had been enlisted to help entice the hardware company to place its new distribution center in our town. All their executives and all the employees who would have to come live and work with us had been flown in for the weekend. The industrial development people brought them to my church that morning “because you have the best music,” which was true, but they might have said something about us having the best preaching, too.
Now it was evening, and I was at a bar-b-q at the country home of Mike, the local businessman who “has the best toys.” The toys included a hot air balloon. Although hot air itself is readily launched at any time [see comment on preaching above], sunset is the best time if it is encased in a balloon. There were some delays, however, and by the time the executives were in the balloon and all the young guys were holding the ropes to keep it under control until Mike lit it to, the sun had gone beyond setting.
We were way out in the pasture, beyond the reach of the barn light. Although in my 40s, in that group I was one of the young guys, so I was casually holding onto a rope and chatting with the truly young, and muscular, warehouse man on the next rope, trying to convince him to come to our church when he moved because we had more than just good music. It was then that Mike decided to lift off.
Suddenly all of us rope holders were air-borne, alone with the balloon, in the dark.
Have you ever had one of those moments when not only your whole life flashes before your eyes, but every possibility for the future flashes before you, too, and none of them are good? We had gone up so quickly and unexpectedly that I had no idea how high we were. I could not see the ground or the trees. I could not see the young man beside me, although I heard him say a number of words that suggested that if he had a vote, his company would put its distribution center at the North Pole, where he might expect light much longer into the evening, like all night. I could not see him in part because his skin was as dark as the night. Since mine is white, I considered asking him if he could see me, but even if he could, it would not tell us how high we were, and that was all that mattered.
It’s amazing, but while I was thinking all these thoughts, and he was describing the darkness and the uncertainty with a quite remarkable combination of words, we managed to have a rather extensive conversation, encompassing the powers of darkness, what either of us could see (nothing), how high we might be (15 yards to 2 miles), how long we could hold on (his best estimate was a minute, mine was 10 seconds), whether the balloon would set down again before we lost our grip (NO!), if the balloon and all the executives would fly away forever if we let go (We didn’t care), and whether angels can fly.
Then a voice said, “Have faith. Let go of the rope.”
I let go. So did the young man on the rope beside mine.
Despite the age difference, we were both athletes. We knew to hit the ground on flexed legs, let them buckle, go fetal, and roll.
I felt his legs. “You break anything?”
“Hey, man, that was a good thing, telling me to let go of the rope.”
“I didn’t say that. I thought you did.”
I’m pretty sure it was Jesus who first said, “Let go of the rope.” We hang onto so many ropes, thin threads of security as we’re dragged up into the darkness by the devil’s hot air, ropes of money and power and sex and addictions and resentment and grief and anger and revenge and violence, unsure how far into the darkness we’ve gone, afraid of how far we might fall if we let go, of how hard we’ll land, of what we might fracture. But our arms are aching, to the point of breaking, and we don’t know how long we can hold on. That’s when we hear that voice: Let go of the rope.
We asked around, that young man and I, asked all the folks in the balloon and on the ropes and on the ground, asked who it was that night who told us, Let go of the rope. Each one claimed not to have said anything.
The message of Easter is: Let go of the ropel
The hardware company put its new distribution center in our town.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where people are Yoopers [UPers] and life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]
You don’t have to bookmark or favorite the CIW URL to return here. Just Google Christ In Winter and it will show up at the top of the page.
I tweet, occasionally, as yooper1721