My husband and I have been known for our quirky household habits. We’re not big on cleanliness and our home organization system is highly intuitive at best. For example, early in our marriage we kept our microwave in a cupboard which meant we had to get it out any time we wanted to use it. It was a hulking thing, tan and brown with a knob for setting the time, no fancy buttons or stainless steel. I think we were trying to conserve countertop space while also being embarrassed by how it looked, but even we had to admit that keeping a microwave in a cupboard ate into the efficiency of its use. Plus sometimes one of us would forget to put it away and the other would say, “Ok, who left the microwave out?” and saying it out loud made it sound pretty silly.
Quirkiness is expected at our house and lately I’ve noticed a new habit – we’ve started getting rid of things we need before we have their replacement. For example, we had two ancient glider rockers in our living room for a long time. As an introvert at home with four children, I grew to hate those chairs; the added motion of one or another of the kids constantly bopping back and forth on them was often a tipping point for me in terms of outward stimulation. This summer we sold the oldest rocker at a yard sale thinking we’d surely make enough to be able to find some “new” seating on Craig’s list. The rocker sold for $4 after my husband was bargained down from the $5 price tag we had on it. Not exactly enough to buy a replacement, so we went several weeks without enough seating in our living room. This made for an awkward situation when guests came and we all crowded together on the couch or I crouched nonchalantly on the living room floor.
More recently, when our computer chair broke, but was still usable, I hauled it out to the curb. I now sit typing in the other glider rocker, which has become our computer chair, which means that when we watch shows on the computer (sold that TV at the yard sale too) one of us sits in the glider while the other hunches in a little wooden chair borrowed from the kids’ room.
Eventually we’ll make our way over to Staples to buy a new chair or find one on Craig’s list. In the meantime I’m beginning to enjoy the space created by letting go of things before we know what will take their place. There are other areas in my life, too, where I see this happening, where the no’s are coming more easily, where there’s more trust in the open space, the yawning divide between commitments.
I had an on-line conversation with a friend recently who said he was “learning to trust.” I replied that maybe “leaning into trust” would be a more surefire approach; circumventing the rational process of “learning” and replacing it with well-timed free-fall into the arms of the One who catches us. I know not having a computer chair is a small thing in a world where many don’t know where their next meal’s coming from, but I have to wonder if even these little leanings aren’t somehow helping me learn to live and lean more freely as though the net that catches me each time is as sure and wide as the Father’s love for us.
There’s a segment in the video, Home At Last where Henri Nouwen talks about his interactions with a trapeze group he followed and observed for a period of time. Here’s what Nouwen has to say about the group,
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.’ (emphasis mine)
I can’t watch that clip, listen to Nouwen’s excited commentary, without tearing up. Nouwen goes on to say that he used the image at a friend’s funeral as a picture of the surrender in death. It’s a beautiful image, but if death is indeed a surrender, then might not life also be an on-going rehearsal, a moment by moment opportunity to practice the art of surrender – the art of leaning, falling, trusting the open space, stretching our arms even before we see the One who waits to catch us?
Last night as we went to bed we were forced to admit it’s beginning to get cold; it’s time for a warmer blanket. The funny thing is, as we lay their accepting the change of seasons, moving into the newness and familiarity of fall, it dawned on us both that we’re pretty sure we threw out our down comforter last spring. It was old, stained, and the down was forever winging its way toward the edges, leaving us thinly covered, shivering in the middle, so we tossed it in a fit of cleaning and ambition. It was time, that’s for sure, but here we are in mid-October snuggled together for warmth under a thin coverlet.
The handle of the door on the van came off in my hand the other morning, the oldest has outgrown all her shoes, and our wardrobes are wearing thin. All of this to say, a new comforter isn’t really in the budget. But, it’ll work out somehow. In the meantime we’ll enjoy the excuse to cuddle close.
I’m starting to enjoy the wide open space between letting go and being caught, to lean into the in-between, into the small discomforts of waiting and needing. One thing I know for sure is that these spaces – the spaces made by our letting go, the wearing thin ones, the crowding together on the couch or floor ones – are the ones that open us to the possibility that we’re learning how to fly. “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.”