Ah, vacation. My body woke me this morning saying, “It’s 5:30 – time to get up!” To which I responded (inspired by John McClane of the Die Hard series), “No, body, I’m supposed to be on vacation. Sleep!” So for the next 2 hours, I drifted in the twilight zone between sleeping and waking; dreaming, thinking, puzzling.
Eventually my mind turned to yesterday’s flying trapeze class. How could it not? When I stretched, I felt tightness extending from my shoulders to my armpits. When I looked down, I saw deep bruises (I bruise extremely easily. Seriously…look at me hard enough and I’ll bruise) behind each knee. I could still feel the light bruise by my navel from the safety harness, the ropy red lines on each palm from the bar.
Last year, as a sort of bucket list activity – and a NASCAR fan – I did a stock car ride-along. A slightly banked track, a professional driver, and G-forces from hurtling 180mph filled an adrenaline-rush void. This year’s replacement? 2014, my year of risks? An activity requiring signing a waiver in case of disabling injuries. Sounds like a good idea…
I rehearsed yesterday’s tricks as I stretched. That first fly…I never felt anything like it. It was both terrifying and exhilarating, but from a distance. I think my brain was in denial and tried to convince itself, on some level, that this wasn’t happening. Somehow I got through the run and dismount, wondering how I was going to do that again.
I did. Again, and again, and again. And I was scared every time. I was the eldest of the students – there were 3 other previous fliers (around 12 and one in maybe her early 20’s) and then 3 siblings visiting from Dallas. They were 1st-timers like me. We became quick friends, bonding over our mutual fear and excitement. The youngest was an adorable 6-year-old girl, then a girl and boy around 12 or so. We went through ground school, walking the steps before we did the tricks in the air. I was voted to go first – thanks, guys — then they followed in birth order. From my own experience and watching my fellow classmates, I learned how illogical fear can be. There are multiple safety checks in place – you wear a belt fastened tightly beneath the rib cage (I got an idea of how a corset feels) and ropes are clipped to this belt. You get clipped in 1st at the base of an interminable ladder (which reminded me each time I climbed that I’m not crazy about ladders…), then when you reach the platform, you’re clipped in twice more. The person on the platform grips you from behind, the ropes you’re attached to are controlled by the ground caller – who can adjust the ropes to soften your landing, there’s a net to catch, and mats beneath that.
It’s fail-safe. And yet, I fought fear each time I climbed that ladder. On the platform, I wiped sweat from my palms. Each time the gentle voice of the platform person coached me: “Shoulders back, toes over the edge, really push your weight forward, Bees. It will make it easier…I’ve got you.” My brain refused to accept that pushing my weight forward over a ledge was a good idea.
Then came the calls: “Ready (bend your knees)!” “Hep (jump)!” The rush as you jump and sail through the area hanging by your hands. At the top of the first swing, the next call: “Legs up, hook the knees!” I pulled my knees up and over the bar between my hands. Now hurtling backwards, and at the top of the next swing, one of my favorite parts: “Hands off, arch back!” This should have terrified me, throttling backwards, hanging only by the crook of my knees, but this part reminds me of dance, just while airborn. My ballet training kicks in and I arch my back up towards the ceiling, head lifted, and reach my arms straight out in front of me. Swinging back again now, “Hands up!”- stomach clenching again as I have to look up at my knees to grab the bar – “Legs down!” – now hanging straight again, toes pointed (thanks again, ballet) and pushed behind me – then my favorite – the back-flip dismount. The call: “Ok, back-flip on the next swing. Kick forward, back, forward, hands off, tuck knees!” and I’m rolling backwards and into the net.
We fly and fly – scared each time, despite knowing we’re safe – until we’ve gotten our tricks down enough to try a catch. We go through ground school for how the catch will work, and we have a lot more questions this time. What happens if we miss the catch? No prob, the ground controller has us. So, when you say, “Legs straight!” from hanging upside down by our knees, back arched and arms reaching in front, we’re supposed to release our legs from the bar before you catch us? Right. So we’re just flying through the air for that second before you catch us? Right. Ohhhhh.
The trepidation factor goes to a new level. We rehearse the moves and calls on ground, then I’m up first. My platform buddy is soothing, asking if I’m breathing. “Trying,” comes my strained reply. The other instructor is now swinging crazily from the opposite bar. He makes the calls: “Ready! Hep!” I jump, complete the first tricks, hands off and arch back, then the moment of truth: “Legs straight!” I release the bar and he catches me, we complete one swing, then “Sit!” I push against his arms and drop to the net, yelling “That was awesome!” the minute I land.
It was amazing, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The boy went next, and after he completed the catch, he was grinning for the first time all class. The middle sister wasn’t sold, though. She watched us and said, “I don’t think I can do that.” But the boy and I both said, “It’s easier than what we’ve been doing.”
That hit me hard this morning. The absolute scariest thing we did yesterday was also the easiest – we let go and just trusted that no matter what happened, we’d be ok. I felt God tell me that my relationship with Him is just like flying trapeze. I like to be in control – or at least feel like I’m in control – because I want to be prepared for whatever happens. I walk through life scared, wiping the proverbial sweat from my palms, not fully trusting that I can throw my weight forward despite all the safeties in place.
This morning’s night stand devotional read: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deut 33:27 (NIV) He’s the safety net, the ropes, the harness, the controller. The past couple of months He’s been telling me, “Let it play.” Never have I been more aware that I’m a make-it-happen person. But amazing things have been happening since He, in essence, called “Legs straight!” He’s been catching me and taking me on exhilarating rides. He’s trustworthy. He’s good. And His plans for me are far better and more exciting than my own.