Saturday, May 19, 2012

Only Stubborn People Can Fly Kites

My neighborhood was full of them, stubborn people.  Because when I was a kid, flying a kite was a big deal.  All the kids in our neighborhood had a kite.  Kite flying was an art to be mastered.  We would stay outside for hours, working hard for that moment when our kites would be small and high in the air, our string unwound to the fullest, taught with the power of the wind.  It was amazing to me and quite an accomplishment to get to that point.  But boy it took perseverance to get there.

The funny thing was, the wind was often the very thing that made getting off the ground hard.  It would work in tandem with gravity, sending would-be air climbers careening violently to the ground nose first.  It took so much trial and error to get going.  The trick was to figure out how to get the wind resistance underneath the kite's wing span instead of on top of it.  There were only two ways to accomplish this:  You either had to run into the wind using the string as a short tether that would help fill the kite with air, or you had to have a partner to hold your kite towards the wind so that the force could gently lift the kite up as you slowly released the string.   It always worked best with a partner.  By far the best solution was a combination of the two; the helper would hold the kite high in the air catching the resistance of the wind, and the flyer would take off running as fast as could be, hoping the kite would reach sufficient lift and velocity to rise into the air

It's so like life.  Getting off the ground in anything is the hardest part of living.  We experience so much resistance and gravity.  It's like the whole of existence is conspiring to keep us from reaching our goals, living our dreams.  The worst is that it's not just difficult circumstances around us that make flying seem impossible.  It's the groundedness within us that's hard.  We are so tied to  the way things have always been.  Even if the promise of new life is better than anything we have ever experienced before, the old life is something we know so well.  We become experts at our own misery.  I remember well the saying that the pain of staying the same has to become greater than the pain of change for real transformation to take place.  There is that thing in us that likes the comfort of the familiar.  It can become a monster within, dictating everything about the way we live until we aren't really living at all.  When I was in seminary one of my friends used to say, "Kiss your monster on the nose."  I love this expression.  For me it means I kiss my fear goodbye on the way out the door to my destiny.  "Oh yes, hello fear.  Hello comfort.  I'm stepping out of my box for awhile.  See you later."  The key is to run faster than your fear can find you.

Let's just say up front that anything worth pursuing is going to take effort, a true stepping beyond the person we are presently to try on the skin of the next person we are called to be.   Just like kite-flying this process is full of trial and error, but eventually we get there.  For me it means I have to set my face towards Jerusalem.  I have to decide that I'm either going to accomplish this thin, or I am going to die trying.  This over-and-over stepping out is what creates velocity, along with a good sprinkling of confidence, within us.  Each time we expend effort in the direction of our dreams, the effort becomes easier, stronger, and we get better at lifting off the ground.

Of course having someone there who believes in us is so helpful.  Someone who can hold us up when we fall.  Someone who can give us encouragement when we have to try again . . . again.   Someone who can see the possibilities within us as much as, or perhaps better, than we can.  Sometimes we just need someone to help us stand when we experience the wind.  And when we combine that with an internal drive that refuses to give up, refuses to give in, getting off the ground is really just a matter of time.

Ultimately the resistance we experience outside of us becomes our ally in overcoming the pull of gravity within us.  It's like the thing that once scared the pee pee out of us, once we actually do that thing, it is no longer unfamiliar.  We know more about it, what it feels like when we do it, what it looks like when we fail, what might help us next time, what might help us succeed.  If we keep making that step of faith, eventually our faith turns into certainty.  Instead of holding us back that difficult circumstance becomes the thing that helps us rise to the next occasion of testing.  And once we learn how to rise above one circumstance, rising above others begins to follow in short order.  Truly perseverance pays off.

So this is my prayer, Oh God make me stubborn.  Make me stubborn.  Oh God make me stubborn in all the right ways.  And make all the timid souls like me out there stubborn too.  How grand it would be to see the world decorated with beautiful lives flying.

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