by Marjorie George
I was reminded this week – again – that the spiritual life is often a life lived in tension. Maybe it was the performance I saw of Cirque Dream (think knock off of Cirque du Soleil). One of the acts was six young, lithe women in body suits who apparently had been stripped of their bones. They performed a series of moves on a huge, open-sided, steel-framed octagon thing suspended 30 feet above the ground. The moves involved bodily contortions around the apparatus and each other – hand to hand, hand to feet, feet to feet (no, really, at one point they hung connected to each other by their ankles).
So I’ve been thinking about the trapeze acts in the circuses of my childhood. You’ve seen them: the two trapeze artists ascend very high, skinny ladders to platforms on either side of the ring. They both grab their trapezes and swing back and forth, going faster and faster and higher and higher for the build-up to the big moment when one of them lets go of her swing and hurls through the air to the waiting hands of her partner. However many hundreds of feet above the ground (if she is very brave they have removed the safety net below her) she hangs in mid-air, trusting that her partner will catch her.
That is sometimes the posture of the spiritual life – daring to let go of something for a future that is now only glimpsed. Considering, as I hang there, that maybe this was all a horrible mistake born of my over-active imagination. Is something/someone really going to catch me?
A friend offered an even larger dose of reality to my little reverie: the hands that catch us, he noted, are sometimes human hands, and sometimes, because they are human, they fail us. And we fall. What then?
Then, said my friend, we rely on our own resiliency. That sounds harsh until I examine what constitutes “my own” resiliency. My resiliency includes the belief that when I fall and get hurt (and I do fall and get hurt) God Almighty will help me to get up and move on. My resiliency includes the absolute certainty that the prayers of my friends and the prayers of the Church are at work on my behalf constantly. It includes my history in which God has always picked me up and dusted me off and moved with me into my future. It includes a reliance on Paul’s statement that nothing – nothing – can separate us from the love of God (see Paul’s Letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verses 31+).
I said earlier that we are called to “live” in the tension, but sometimes I cannot do that. Sometimes the best I can muster is to exist in it for a period of time, rather like a visit to the dentist: I can do it because I know it will soon be over.
As we prepare to enter into the season of Advent, itself a season of preparation for the Really Big Show, can we dare to voluntarily enter into that tension? Can we hang suspended, letting go of the old ways, the old thoughts, the old habits for four weeks? Can we, in faith, reach for something that is almost-but-not-yet? Can we, and this is a biggie, actually embrace it, welcome it, during Advent 2010?
Can we, with great audacity, reach out to the hands that reach for us? Welcome to the greatest show in all heaven – and here on earth, too.
Marjorie is the Communications Officer for the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at email@example.com.