Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.Proverbs 3:5
Do any of you feel like you’re flying through the air with no net below you hoping that someone will catch you? That describes 2020 for me so far! If you feel the same way, have I got a story for you! It’s not my story – it’s Father Henri Nouwen’s, and it’s a good one. He is one of my favorite Christian authors, in part because his writing is always so genuine, honest, and deeply spiritual, but also because he was able to see beautiful metaphors for the spiritual life everywhere he looked. One memorable metaphor for Fr. Nouwen was found in a trapeze troupe, of all places. Here is his story:
“The Flying Rodleighs are trapeze artists who perform in the German circus Simoneit-Barum. When the circus came to Freiburg two years ago, my friends Franz and Reny invited me and my father to see the show. I will never forget how enraptured I became when I first saw the Rodleighs move through the air, flying and catching as elegant dancers.The next day, I returned to the circus to see them again and introduced myself to them as one of their great fans. They invited me to attend their practice sessions, gave me free tickets, asked me to dinner, and suggested I travel with them for a week in the near future. I did, and we became good friends.
One day, I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying. He said, ‘As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.’ ‘How does it work?’ I asked. ‘The secret,’ Rodleigh said, ‘is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar.’ ‘You do nothing!’ I said, surprised. ‘Nothing,’ Rodleigh repeated. ‘The worst thing the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It’s Joe’s task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe’s wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.’
When Rodleigh said this with so much conviction, the words of Jesus flashed through my mind: ‘Father into your hands I commend my Spirit.’ Dying is trusting in the catcher. To care for the dying is to say, ‘Don’t be afraid. Remember that you are the beloved child of God. He will be there when you make your long jump. Don’t try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.’
In life and in death we are invited to trust the Catcher, to trust our loving God. This year, with all of its many and various challenges, is a year when we are all being invited once again to trust, trust, trust. I know that’s true for me, and I suspect it is true for you, too. Again and again I have had to remind myself this year to trust the Catcher. Just stretch out my arms and hands in prayer, and trust. Swinging through this year, with all of its ups and downs, all of its uncertainties, and all of the anxiety just below the surface, day in and day out, I keep coming back to this wonderful, simple truth: that God is our Catcher. Loving, faithful, and trustworthy. We can trust God to catch us, come what may. A catcher must catch, Fr. Nouwen reminds us, and the flyer must trust. So we are invited, as we fly through life, to trust – not to try and grab God, but to fly through this life with our outstretched arms, and trust that the Catcher will be there for us, as God always is. Trust the Catcher! Every day, and in every way, trust God. Trust, trust, trust!