Two weekends ago, my husband and I finally made it out to the Colorado Balloon Classic. We’ve been talking about going for three years, but every time the morning of our intended trek to the launch rolls around, we instead roll back over in bed. This year, though, we’d had our fill of good intentions and, bleary-eyed and less-than-bushy-tailed, we joined the throngs to watch what felt like hundreds of hot air balloons fill and take off into the bright blue sky.
We dragged our fingers along the quickly filling material of balloons on their sides, and watched handlers doggedly holding down the top ropes of balloons determined to buck their moorings and fly before time was right. But mostly we looked up. Up, up, and up.
If you’ve only seen hot air balloons at a distance, you are probably unaware of how completely massive they are. At least several stories high, these seemingly ephemeral aircraft cause you to crane your neck before they’ve ever taken off. And one they have, their quiet movement snags your attention precisely because it is so silent, and you watch them drift past above your head with rapt attention.
After the first three waves of balloons had launched, Bryan and I walked back into the car, hand in hand, content and feeling rewarded that we had made the effort of choosing beauty over comfort that day. And then, as we slipped into the car, another thought entered both of our minds: Ouch!
You see, as I mentioned, we’d spent most of the morning doing something that our bodies aren’t normally prepared to do—look up. Both of our low backs were aching, and would ache for days. We’d spent so much time (and, frankly, it wasn’t that much time at all) gazing skyward that the very things that rooted us to Earth were protesting. Loudly.
Now, it would be easy enough to leave that metaphor where it lies. You’d walk away knowing that we need to look up more, and that sometimes comfort needs to be sacrificed so that we can gain a greater perspective, see God more clearly.
But I think that’s too facile.
As someone who cares a great deal about bodies, and how God speaks through them, I don’t think that the only message of my aching lumbar region was that I’m lacking in spiritual high-mindedness. As I ached and dialogued with God about it over the next few days, He gently reminded me that life in the kingdom is about holding gently the tensions between what is and what is to come. The tensions between things like God’s sovereignty and our own free will, the tensions between grace and truth. And, that Sunday morning, the tensions between Earth and sky, between my dust-fashioned body, made so tenderly out of the earth that I am held to, charged to tend, and the spiritual reality of God, who is so much more, so transcendant and beautiful, so beyond what I could ever think or imagine.
God whispered to me that the ache in my back wasn’t wrong or an indication that I was missing out, but instead a reminder that Heaven and Earth meet and mingle in this too frail frame, that it aches with glory, and with the holy knowledge that I am made for the here and now, the temporal and immediate, and that I am also made, always, to look up, to dream, and to long for more.