Picture a tightrope walker. Scared, but brave. She has an umbrella. It’s brightly colored with fanciful designs on it, though you can barely see that from the ground. She stops walking. Her body jolts to readjust her balance as she holds the umbrella out in front of her. She opens it. Now you can see the bold designs, the swirls of yellow and the dots of blue, the flowers and the ocean waves. She moves forward, with more confidence this time. You follow her momentary gaze to the world beneath her – an intricately woven net. This is the net of grace. She smiles and nods to the net. You can tell by her body language that she doesn’t want to fall, but she has the assurance that a fall would not lead to her demise. Beside the net is a ladder, which would lead her right back to the rope. She would easily resume her position.
This is me. I am a tightrope walker.
There was a while when I did not realize I was on a tightrope. My life felt more like a sidewalk, with comfortable grass beds by its side. Keeping my eyes fixed was something I knew to be necessary, but never was so dire.
Now if I veer to the side, I fall. If I take my eyes off of Jesus, I swirl into the net. I haven’t always believed that the net would hold me or that there would be a ladder nearby, but after a few falls I’m trusting more and more that it’ll catch me when my gaze is misdirected, and that I’ll be able to get back up again. The ladder also is grace.
The umbrella, you ask? Where did that come from? (And don’t worry, my friend, it’s still in my hand.) God gave me this umbrella, years ago. I had it along the sidewalk too, but rarely had a need for it. I used it when I was a young girl – swirling it around, dancing in the rain of childhood pains beyond my control. It kept me dry then. When adulthood came, I looked around and saw that no one around me twirled with open umbrellas. Most adults I could see either used their umbrellas as walking canes or had thrown them away all together. At some point along the journey, I closed my umbrella.
Then came the tightrope. The umbrella started to feel cumbersome, throwing off my balance. But I knew it must have purpose. I kept it. I held it horizontal, hoping that its use as a stick would help keep me out of the net. When my gaze was on the Savior before me, walking was a blessed and exhilarating journey.
Then I went to Hutchmoot. What I discovered was a group of adults who were all walking on the tightrope, learning together how to open their umbrellas. I learned that I was not alone. I learned that the fears of falling and the fears of having an ugly umbrella (“Why should I open it for the world to see?”) were very real and very common. In such a community, I started to open the umbrella in my hand. I continued walking. I learned that walking the tightrope, with my gaze fixed on Jesus, felt fulfilling with my umbrella open, as it brings balance to my every step.
It doesn’t mean I fall less, I’m still on a tightrope here. It does mean that I don’t fear the fall as much, with this umbrella to ease my landing. After all, this umbrella is a grace too. I’m willing to risk more – to do a couple of twirls in the hopes of landing back on the rope. Sometimes I’ll land and sometimes I’ll fall – either way is grace.