One year ago my daughter and I were sitting at my kitchen table carving silly faces and other designs into pumpkins, which has become something of an annual ritual for our small family. As usual, our wide-ranging conversation touched on everything from health-care (she is a nurse) to religion (I am a recovering ex-clergyman).
At one point, the discussion centered on Cirque du Soleil. Some months earlier, thanks to a Christmas gift from our daughter, her mother and I had attended a concert by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra which featured a few members of the Cirque troupe performing their dazzling acts of aerial acrobatics while swinging from ropes and trapezes high above the stage. It was, to use an overworked word, breathtaking.
The day after our pumpkin chat, I still couldn’t get the image of those intrepid entertainers (the acrobats, not the orchestra—although playing beautiful music while human beings hang suspended above you requires a degree of fearlessness, too) out of my mind. As a result, I wrote a Facebook status update which referenced the Cirque du Soleil trapeze artists.
I just re-read that Facebook post (yes, I keep them on file) and found its point even more applicable to my life today than when I wrote it a year ago. The remainder of this post, then, is mainly a slightly expanded version of what I said at that time.
What I find most fascinating about trapeze artists is not so much their skill as their faith. Two highly trained athletes, hanging by their legs from trapezes, swinging back and forth, five or six stories above the crowd. Then there is that moment when one artist must disengage from the first trapeze so that she can transfer to the security of her partner whose arms are outstretched, ready to catch her. At least, that is her fervent hope.
But between the two trapezes there is a brief moment when the artist transferring from one to the other is supported by neither. She is hanging there, defying the law of gravity for a split second, and all she has to sustain her is the confidence that, before she falls to the ground, her partner on the second trapeze will swing close enough to her so that she can grasp his outstretched arms.
That situation in which we are suspended in mid-air, having left the comparative safety of the past and awaiting the prospect of the future, is where we spend a great deal of our lives. It is where I have lived for more than seven years.
How we fare during that prolonged moment—and to an extent, whether or not we are able to grasp the outstretched arms of our partner—depends on our confidence in the one who promised to catch us. The one who taught us in the meantime to have faith.