The Balloon Boy Within

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In a box in the garage’s attic.  A six year old boy emerged from a box in the attic of his garage yesterday after hours had been spent searching for him (CNN story here and here).  There were reports that he was in a floating oversized weather balloon that had been released from his backyard.  There were reports that he was in a box attached to the bottom of this balloon–a box that had fallen off in flight.  The Colorado Air National Guard deployed helicopters, flights were halted at Denver International Airport for a bit, rescue efforts were immense.  Hours of live coverage of this balloon flying through mid air captured the hearts of a watching and praying world–we were all hoping that he was okay.  After two full searches of the property, he emerged from his hiding place and presented himself to the family.  He was in trouble and he knew it, so he hid and remained hidden until he was ready to face the music.

Of course, he and his family have been splashed all over the media and now there is speculation that it was all a publicity stunt.  I tend to give the six year old and his family the benefit of the doubt.  He pulled a naughty and ran and hid–no publicity stunt.  I might be wrong…we may never know for sure.

Anyway, his stunt of hiding, even though he must have heard his name called a bajillion times, is something I think we can all relate to.  Not only have we all been six year olds who’ve overstepped a boundary we knew we would be in trouble for, our older selves have been guilty of hiding when we’ve overstepped and caused a mess. We may not crawl in a box in the attic, but we may deny it or minimize it or try to cover it up or transfer blame or leave a relationship or quit a job or move to a new church or even relocate.  We simply don’t want to emerge and face the music, we don’t want to claim responsibility or ask for forgiveness, we don’t want to live with the consequences.  Instead, like our six year old self, we find what feels like a safe hiding place and stay put for as long as we can, hoping to never be found out, hoping it will all just go away.

Eventually, though, our deeds find us…even follow us.  We may never be found out, we may get away with it in this life, but if we have a conscience, it haunts us.  Even if society says it is OK, no big deal, we know we’ve blown it, we know we’ve entered a dark shadowy place and stopped our ears to our heavenly Father who is screaming our name. 

I confess I’ve been there, done that.  Several years ago, during a sleet storm, I drove into a parking lot to turn around and hit a slick spot that sent me careening into a large shrub.  As I turned the wheel and hit the brake I realized nothing I could do would change the trajectory of the car…the ice was king that night.  I could tell, as I was nose-diving into the shrub, that the shrub had been hit before…that I wasn’t the only one who’d lived this nightmare.  After slamming into it I pulled away, saw that the business that owned the parking lot was closed for the evening, and proceeded to drive away…no note for the owner at the door, no nothing.  I simply drove away.  I got away with it.

But, it haunted me.  For too long I brooded, then I asked God to forgive me and tried to receive His forgiveness without seeking the forgiveness of the business owner or providing restitution.  I sought vertical forgiveness without seeking horizontal forgiveness.  For awhile I felt OK, but it never went away and guilt would descend on me in waves–God kept calling me out of hiding.  I knew I had to emerge and deal with it–the box in the attic gig was losing its charm, was becoming a pain filled abode and was keeping me from living fully in His light.  So, two years after the shrub slam I mustered an apologetic email to the owner and offered to help  provide restitution for the damage done.  Know what?  Her response email was most gracious and proceeded to let me know that at the time of my bush bash the shrub was slotted for removal and that my car slamming into it had helped loosen it…my violent intersection with her shrubbery had actually been helpful and had saved her time and effort.  While reading the response I about fell over…then I laughed at the pure irony of it all and at myself for having waited so long to fess up.  Not only had I been forgiven, I had been helpful.  My fear and hiding had created my own miserable prison, I only needed to come out and receive forgiveness and grace.

Granted, not all oversteps result in such a happy ending, yet in seeking forgiveness and in offering restitution we step into the Light, no matter what the consequences/aftermath.  In seeking horizontal forgiveness, we become able to receive vertical forgiveness, God’s forgiveness.  Nothing is sweeter than being able to receive forgiveness, nothing generates more Light, Hope and Joy in this world than God’s forgiveness.  Jesus gave all so that we might be forgiven and reconciled with God.

That little boy had scads of people hunting for him, praying for him, yelling his name.  God does the same with us…often He’ll send someone to us to call us out of hiding, someone who sees and knows, someone who cares enough to say it out loud and offer a hand of help.  We may hear judgement or condemnation, but if they are there to help then we’re not seeing it quite right…judgemental, condemning sorts don’t offer help, they just like to point fingers to feel better about themselves.  The souls He sends our way care, pray and, along with His Voice, call us out of hiding.  The little boy eventually emerged, will you?

(Contemplative prayer update: been praying more–went to a Taize service on Tuesday that really helped open me up prayer-wise.  Prayer is more ongoing now and oh, so sweet. )


One thought on “The Balloon Boy Within

  1. Haha! Love it–God does have a way of not only telling us “it’s okay,” but showing us how foolish we were to procrastinate on what we thought was going to be an unpleasant encounter. And the concept of horizontal versus vertical is so appropriate, too. You’re right–we have the innate sense that being sorry in our own little closet doesn’t quite cut it.


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