As I watched, slack-jawed, the Olympian gymnasts flying (sometimes literally) through their routines, my mind went back to middle school. Way, way back to middle school. Teaching in one now, I recognize how affluent my school must have been when I think of the plethora of gym equipment we had: archery sets, trampolines, balance beams, even and uneven bars. We got to taste a variety of activities for our future Olympian endeavors.
I don’t remember actually doing the uneven bars, but I remember watching it because of Kim. Kim was smaller than most of us and a tad immature as I recall. The teacher set us up on the bar – our feet hooked somehow on the lower bar, our hands gripping the top bar with us facing down. Then she told us how to let go and swing around to catch the bar from the opposite direction, so we were now facing up.
One by one, we did it. I must have, although I’m sure my example wasn’t stellar.
When it was Kim’s turn, she hung there, her short little arms extended to the top bar. Then it was time to let go and magically swing around as we all had, and this is when Kim lost it. We’re talking Epic Freak Out. She was terrified and would not leg go of that bar.
After the obligatory encouragement, the PE teacher finally walked up under Kim, held up her arms, and told the crying kid, “Come on. I’ll get you down.”
There was just one problem. In order to be rescued, Kim had to let go of the bar. I’m not sure what’s after “epic” in melt downs, but Kim went there.
Kim was crying, screaming really, the teacher was almost yelling to be heard, we were gawking. Finally, with one last scream, Kim let go and latched onto that coach with a death grip. Her face against the teacher’s neck, she sobbed and clung. The teacher had to peel her off.
God brought that picture back to me, as Patsy Clairmont would say, “in living color” this week. I was having a hang-dog repentance session with God – a specific conversation we have had far too often. I began to get frustrated, angry at Satan and myself, and said, “Can’t you just rescue me from this?!”
Bam. There was poor Kim hanging from that bar, her savior right there waiting.
All she had to do…was let go.
For once I understood how difficult that really is. I empathized with Kim all these decades later. Letting go is hard… especially when it seems like you’re falling into the unknown.
That day in middle school we all wondered why she didn’t trust the coach to catch her. I see it now. All she knew – her reality – was that bar she was clinging to. Do I trust God to catch me? Yes! But my reality is the familiarity of this ugly thing I have had to repeatedly confess. And it IS ugly. But I’ve been hanging on so long and so tightly…
I know God will catch me. But I still have to let go.
There was no danger in Kim ever climbing back up on those uneven bars. For her it was one and done. Lesson learned. Unfortunately, my letting go, to my shame, may not yet be so permanent.
But my sweet Coach will always be there, ready, capable, encouraging, and forgiving when it’s time to let go again.