This summer, I had the opportunity to trapeze for the first time. The flying trapeze is an acrobatic apparatus from which an acrobat hangs and flies through the air. The flying trapeze is a beautiful art which requires much skill and strength as an acrobat progresses through new stunts and catches.
It was this skill that I knew I did not have that made me hesitant to mount the platform to try the trapeze. I watched in wonder as my younger sister, a gymnast and pole-vaulter, learned new ways to fly on the trapeze.
I marveled at the beauty of her ability to control her body in such a way as to make the trapeze swing in its mesmerizing, pendulum-like manner by contorting her body into intriguing shapes instead of hanging stagnantly from the bar.
Knowing her background in athletics and her intense upper body strength, I was almost content watching from the ground, convinced that I would never be able to participate in this acrobatic form.
I did long to swing from the bar, to fly through the air for even a short time. In my mind, though, I did not possess the strength or talent needed to perform this task.
One of the men coaching my sister through her flights—named Randy—kept looking down from the platform at me on the ground as I watched with wonder, asking me when I was going to climb the ladder to swing.
I would laugh him off, saying there was no way I could hold on to the bar long enough to swing. He, in turn, laughed at me, claiming that the trapeze requires much less upper body strength than imagined by those who have never flown before.
And then it happened—I was strapped into a harness and I was climbing up the ladder to the platform, wondering what on earth I was getting myself into.
One rung at a time, I inched my way up the ladder until I reached the platform, where Randy hooked me into the safety ropes. Looking down at the net and my family below, I felt on top of the world (or at the top of a ladder in Los Angeles, California, anyway).
The euphoric feeling of finally being on the platform lasted a grand total of thirty seconds, until Randy told me to take the bar. As he held on to the back of my harness, I reached out, took the offered bar, and felt like I was going to fall forward into the net.
The bar was made of steel and was much heavier than I expected. It was only Randy’s grip on my harness that kept me from plummeting prematurely off of the platform. Randy was serving as a “board muffin” (a term I learned recently in Dr. Patterson’s Circus Arts class), meaning he prepared me for my flight.
Randy also serves as a catcher. A flier will work up her momentum to the point that she lets go of the bar and lands (hopefully) in the catcher’s arms.
The catcher can then continue the flier’s momentum, amazing all who watch, whether massive crowds or small families watching from below.
A flier usually receives all the glory from those watching, for it is she who draws the eyes as she literally flies through the air. However, a flier is totally reliant on her catcher and the one keeping her on the platform before her flight.
I had to completely trust that Randy had a good hold on me and would not let me fall. And then came his next command: to grasp the bar with my second hand.
My initial response: “No.” Why on earth would I want to let go of the perfectly sound platform to hold on to a bar that seemed to weigh more than I did and trust my entire being to a man I had just met?
Letting go with my second hand is one of the hardest physical things I have ever done. It did not require much physical effort, but my mind was straining, telling me that to let go of the platform was foolish.
Randy calmly pried my fingers off of the platform and placed my hand on the bar. He proceeded to talk me through the process that was about to take place as the other coach—Ray—prepared for my flight.
As a beginning flier, I was led through the series of actions needed to make the most of my flight by commands from Ray. From the ground, controlling my safety ropes, he shouted out when to extend my legs, when to swing, and, finally, when to let go at the end. My only real role: to hold on and obey the unseen voice.
“Ready to fly!” “Ready! Set! Hep!” In my mind, I jumped graciously off the platform and swung through the air. In reality, Randy had to kick me off the platform and I swung petrified, the dead weight on a pendulum rushing through the air.
But then I reached the height of the arc and my body was weightless for a brief second; and as I swung back down, I realized I was flying.
Ray shouted commands to me and I did my best to obey, until his final command that resulted, in my incredible surprise, to my performing a back tuck before landing in the net.
As I lay in the net, adrenaline rushed through my body, pleading for another chance to fly. I had flown successfully—if not particularly gracefully—and had loved it, despite my initial reservations and fears (some of which still remained).
I realized that this incredible thing I had just done had been the hardest trust exercise I had ever experienced. I was completely reliant on those around me holding my harness and giving me commands.
The commands were there; but it was up to me to follow through and obey them to optimize my flight. In that moment, I realized that my walk with God is very similar to flying on the trapeze.
We often feel overwhelmed because we do not know exactly what to do next or what to expect, but God is always there, telling us what our next step is even when we do not see the whole picture.
We have to trust where He is leading and what He is telling us to do as He guides us into new things. And then, if we respond and jump into trusting Him, maybe we can look back and see a successful journey, a beautiful flight.
– Beth Ann McCormick, Contributing Writer