Saturday, 19 March 2011

Parachutes and Harnesses

This morning offers a stunning blue sky, steam rising from the formerly frosted roofs of sheds and other outbuildings in curling billowing clouds, a compelling stillness in the air, and perfect conditions for a whole array of flying. Within a short amount of time, the sailplanes will be turning in the thermals above the hills not far from here, and that most compelling of spring and summer sounds, small aircraft practicing in the distant sky. If conditions remain as they are into the evening, hot air balloons with begin their majestic ascensions, with the occasional roar of the burners audible from the ground.

This reminded me of a recent holiday that I enjoyed with my family. It was one of those adventure holidays where bicycles and walking shoes were more the order of the day than flip-flops and suncream. During my stay I chose to pour two hours of my life into an activity called 'High Ropes', where I was called to traverse beams many feet in the air, perform tricks whilst balanced sixty or seventy feet from the ground, climb vertical poles and balance at its top, throwing myself at a trapeze bar - just for fun! Now I should say that I was wearing a support harness throughout and no possible harm could come to me. The same for my gliding - I always wear a reserve parachute in the event of the catastrophic failure of the near-parachute I would already be dangling under. Pilots of planes and fixed-wing gliders will also have such things - fail-safes.

Oddly though, when standing on a round beam seventy feet in the air and then doing star-jumps on it; when gliding at two or three thousand feet over cliffs and rugged mountain tops - the fact of the failsafe is almost completely forgotten. Rationally, both activities should have next to no risk, but it doesn't feel that way. When we stand at the edge of something very high and look down, we feel unsafe, without need. It the top of a vertical pole, standing on a plate that was barely large enough to accommodate my feet, that was wobbling as wooden poles do, my heart beat fast and I felt afraid. I have felt unsafe while gliding.

There are times in our own lives when we feel completely unsupported, alone and vulnerable. We have all experienced those times to one extent or another. They are not nice, and we almost always feel unsafe. But like those who like to climb trees or glide through the air, there is never a time when we do what we do without the embrace of a harness, and without the 'failsafe' of a parachute or a guide-line. God is beside us always, in all that we do. How easy it is, in the adrenaline of the moment, or the terror, or the exuberance - to feel fearful, yet we need always to pause but a moment and remember that whatever we do we are never unsupported. At times we may find the support to be un-comfy or heavy, inadequate or excessive - but it is always there. The thing about all the supports in our lives, their presence is often gentle and more apt to be unnoticed, and so it goes. Perhaps that is how it has to be so that we feel free and not stifled, and that sensing fear or foreboding is simply part of the experiences of living this life.


  1. Over the course of my 63+ years, many of my supports (or props) have failed, leaving me to free-float through windy realms; and full of fear. I thank God for those times, for in them I found a stronger grip of His hand; a sturdier heart within my own fragile frame - a heart He'd already given.

    Blessings to you & yours,

  2. And to you Kathleen.

    This day has remained beautiful, and this enthusiast has been further blessed by a fly-past from a Spitfire, a most iconic WWII aircraft!

    God is good!