“Nevertheless I am continually with you;
You have taken hold of my right hand.”
“Einfach loslassen!” We’re playing on the slackline at Family Week II, and the two girls on the sidelines squeal it with the self-confidence of those who watch. Just let go.
A slackline is a tightly stretched piece of webbing, often strung between two trees about three feet up. The object is to walk on top of it like a tightrope, bouncing and leaning but never quite falling all the way to the ground. Though enormously popular in Seattle, slacklining entered the realm of activities I had time for only this summer. I’m still not terribly good at it, but after seven weeks of wobbling I can usually walk from one tree to another without falling off. A few brilliant times, I’ve also turned around and come back. For me, it’s relaxing and focusing, knowing that there is only one direction to go, one place to look, and one danger to avoid. Battling gravity, we walk forward on the slackline.
Though I’ve taken a few turns today, mostly I’ve spent today with three girls, all about twelve years old. They are busy, these girls, busy with plans and ideas and quarrels and talents. One rides horses, another sings and plays piano, and still a third loves soccer but has recently hurt her foot. They whirled over here half an hour ago, when I’d begun surveying the afternoon play time from the slackline, and since then have jumped on and off it with remarkable stubbornness. Holding a hand in air, I give them one point of solidity as they walk across. Sometimes they cling to it with weighty fervor, while other times they barely touch me, their fingers merely bouncing along as we go.
After a while, I take another turn ganz allein, or totally alone. When I’ve finished they get ready for their next turns. One will try it alone. Another will walk a few steps on her own. The third will keep holding on.
It’s this third who’s being advised at the moment to “just let go.” Though their cries are probably annoying to the girl on the line next to me, the point is sound; without letting go of the hand she’s leaning on, she’ll never learn to walk alone. We can keep doing this forever, but as I feel her weight on my hand, I know that she’s trusting me still, not learning to dance with gravity and elasticity to remain in the air.
Still, I know her hesitation. Maybe not with slacklining, where I fall often and hard, but elsewhere. I’ve been blessed with hands to hold onto, the supports of loving family and friends, a home where I know and am known, a job. More recently, it’s been the support of the community at Tauernhof, a place of encouragement and energy. Though the summer here has seemed short, in depth of relationship and familiarity it seems like I’ve been here forever.
With packed bags and only a half a dozen details left to attend to this morning, I’m leaving Tauernhof today. And it’s like leaving home again. This hand I’ve held onto has been strong and steady, an important support to me as I tread the new territory of life overseas. Part of me longs to hold on, to keep balancing here, but Tauernhof is stationary; to move forward, seeking the calling that brought me here, I have to let go.
On the train through Switzerland today, I’ll remember that I’m going from one home to another. That the God who provided friends and a home for just eight weeks at Tauernhof will be with me always, in Austria and in Seattle and in Germany. It’s not slacklining, after all. Even when I let go I’m not alone; though I fear falling, I never will.