I never realized what was going on the moment I let go of the ground. It wasn’t until I was high in the air holding onto God that I saw God was all I had.
Just like the first day I tried aerial silk and fell head over heels in love with the circus arts, there was a day I came across a new spiritual journey and couldn’t take my eyes away. What I saw echoed so deeply within me, I took those first steps without fully realizing what I was doing. The questions, the wisdom, the greater viewpoint, I knew it was all beyond the mainstream of Christian theology, but I took one look and didn’t care. With a mind full of questions and a heart longing for God, I decided I really didn’t like the limits of traditional Christianity anyway and I wanted to push beyond them. I wanted to explore this new world around me. At the very least, I wanted to try it out, see what was there, see if there were answers to the questions now coming fast and furious.
That is how all great journeys begin – with a step off the expected path when a voice calls to you from the wilderness to come, just look at this flower, now this tree, the stream, see the deer? Before I knew it, I was so deep into the wilderness, my mind and heart unalterably changed, I had no desire to go back to where I’d come from. Having started one of the greatest journeys of my life both physically and spiritually, I found I liked being high in the air. I liked seeing further than I’d ever seen before.
I don’t know when I first started linking this spiritual journey I’ve been taking with the art of aerial silk, but one day as I was climbing the fabric up to the ceiling, I realized it was a beautiful image for what I’d been doing with God. For most people, climbing up fabric toward a high ceiling with no safety net or safety harness of any kind seems like insanity. It is truly dangerous, and you have to be extraordinarily strong to move your body around like that in the air. Similarly, people might look at where I’ve gone spiritually, holding on to no rules but love, no safety net but God alone, and think I’ve gone too far. I don’t proof my beliefs with the Bible or limit my fields of study and questions to what falls within the realm of “right belief.” I let go of those cares and concerns, tossed away those rules, and started listening only for the voice of God urging me on, seducing me into that next step, that next book to read, question to ask, or friend to talk to. The labels no longer mattered to me. I didn’t need to make sure I was standing in the right place. I was free to leave the ground behind, leave orthodoxy to those who cared for it, and to start depending on God alone.
We as a culture like our rules. We like to know where we need to stand to be right, to be safe. We want to make sure we’ve ticked off the correct boxes, said the good prayers, recycled the right things. We follow the formulae, and maybe we’ll be rewarded when we die and won’t be punished, in whatever forms reward and punishment take. This is like standing with a pool of areal silk on the mat around our feet. We stand there gazing up at God, seeing him as understandable and predictable. In this ground-based thinking, we believe we know what is right and wrong, and we depend on that knowledge to stay in God’s good graces.
But some will take the silk between their fingers and find that the feel of it is not quite what they expected. The silk whispers, “Try me!” They might try a couple of tricks on the ground, ask a few questions, push at the boundaries, talk and dream of freedom. But most will keep their feet firmly planted on the ground, in their familiar theology, thinking that is what God is all about.
But some people stop thinking about the ground and listen instead to the silk. They hear the whisper of God and find it so intoxicating that they’ll give up anything for the experience of hearing this mysterious Divine calling to them. Hardly looking, they take the silk in their hands, lift their feet off the ground, and climb. For them, walking or not walking is now a choice – the world, their view of God, their view of themselves, are utterly changed. Instead of just thinking of traveling horizontally, they now have a new option of traveling up and down. Left and right, the lines of division, no longer limit their worldview.
In the air, everything on the ground fades in importance – only the silk in your hands remains. As I’ve come to know God this way – as the only thing around me and the only thing I need – I’ve learned it’s okay to let go of everything else. I’ve learned through experience God has me wrapped up. I can even let go with my hands, free-falling and twirling through the air, because I know that God, like the silk, is going to be there to catch me and cradle me in its folds as I tumble in play.
There’s something inside us that knows this incredible experience of God already. Whenever we watch an aerial performance, when we see bodies careening through the air with seemingly no limits, we call it beautiful and extraordinary. It’s a mystical moment because we know deep inside that’s what our souls truly are – wild and free, joyful and fully alive, in the air and one with God.
While I fully respect that God calls some people to keep their feet on the ground, I can never go back to ground-based living. I’ve learned to trust God and only God – not rules or a certain theology or a particular spiritual practice, but God. God surrounds me like the silk, is in me like my strength, and the experience of that intimacy between God and myself, without any hindrance in between, that is the most beautiful freedom and the wildest, most playful journey I have ever been seduced into taking. So I reach out, take hold of the silk, and climb once more. ~~~
Sarah Katreen Hoggatt has authored several books and is a speaker and spiritual director with a passion for ministering to fellow souls. She holds a Masters degree from George Fox Evangelical Seminary and lives in Salem, Oregon. She is a member of Riversway Friends of Northwest Yearly Meeting.