Henri Nouwen took his elderly father to the circus one day, it was then that he became enamored by the trapeze act known as “The Flying Rodleighs.” He was mesmerized by the way they would fly through the air, perform a variety of flips, and land safely in the arms of the “catcher” – a fellow trapeze artist whose responsibility was to catch the flyer.
Nouwen’s experience at the circus led him to meet the Flying Rodleighs. He spent time watching them practice and perform. He traveled with them for a week, listening to their stories, asking questions, trying to understand what it was that allowed them to do such amazing things in the air.
One day as he was talking with the troupe’s leader, Rodleigh and he told Nouwen the secret of the catcher. “As a flyer I must have complete confidence in my catcher,” said Rodleigh. “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.”
“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 catch bar.”
“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 of 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.”
As he listened to Rodleigh talk about the catcher, Nouwen – always looking for spiritual themes in all of life’s activities – had the words of Christ immediately come to him:
“Father into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Jesus knew who the catcher was and trusted him completely.
The question is do we trust the catcher completely with our lives? Do we live life with out stretched arms knowing that our God will be there to catch us before we fall? This takes practice and discipline; the flying Rodleigh trusts Joe, his catcher, because they have rehearsed the art of catching over and over. We too need to practice flying through life, taking chances, and trusting our catcher.
During difficult times I hear people say, “I am barely hanging on” or “I feel like I am hanging on by a thread.” In fact, I have said this myself at times.
I believe God is not looking for us to hang on to Him, in fact it is the opposite, He is hanging onto us. A sure way to fall is to believe that it is our responsibility to grab God and hang on. We need to learn to live life with out stretched arms so that God can grab us before we fall.