The circus remains an experience of which dreams are made – watching all the animals, along with the clowns, and the other artists at work opens up an amazing world which enchants both children and adults alike. Perhaps the most halting of performances belong on the high-wire and the trapeze as human beings defy gravity and face fears which lurk not too far beneath the surface for most. It is certainly not an activity which I would line up to participate in. In pondering the trapeze, I confront one of the greatest fears in faith…
I am told that the trick to the trapeze is all in the timing. Knowing that the bar will come into reach just as the trapeze artist reaches out for it. But – and here is the nub of the problem – it requires letting go of the bar in one’s hand before the new one comes into reach. There is a moment when one must commit oneself to the air, and ‘wait’ for the other trapeze to swing into position. This is true whether or not there is another person there to catch.
One has a similar experience in skeet shooting. The shooter must aim at empty sky, allowing time for the skeet to travel a distance in the same time it takes the bullet to reach that point of intersection. Success comes not in aiming at what is there, but in what is ahead.
In a rapidly changing world, it seems these two scenarios reflect the challenge we face in life. If we aim at what already is, we risk it having passed by before we reach it. The only way (though by no means a guaranteed way) of success comes by anticipating what will be, and projecting ourselves into that empty space. Faith is expressed not just as placed in a person who we believe is there, but is projected as we reach for something which is not yet visible.
The problem, as outlined above, is that this requires letting go of what we already hold in our hands before we have hold of the promised future. There is a time of transition, filled with hope - yet uncertainty. But this is an echoing story of faith: found in Abraham leaving Ur and heading to the Promised (yet unseen) Land; found in Daniel entering a den of starving lions in the hope that he would find deliverance; found in Jesus submitting to crucifixion and death in the hope of the promised (yet unseen) resurrection.
The only problem we face is those agonising moments when the hands are empty, and the bar hasn’t yet swung into view, let alone reach. Can we trust God to meet us at that point?
August 4, 2002