I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was roughly seven or eight years old, it was a slightly overcast and windy fall day, and I had the whole day to play outside. I’d just received a brand new GI Joe kite. I can’t remember if I ever had my own kite before, so in my mind, this was my first. It was a perfect “kite day,” and I was about to reap the benefits of Mother Nature’s blustery mood.
Set to have the best kite day of my life, I asked my mother if I could go outside. She agreed and, to be safe, she reminded me of the rules we agreed upon often.
1. Stay close to the house,
2. Watch what you’re doing (This was code for don’t destroy anything by doing something stupid.),
3. Don’t play in the street.
I was so excited to open my shiny new kite and put it together myself I could barely stand it. I put that thing together faster than anybody in the history of the world put together a kite. Now it was time to plan my take off and flight. I lived in Seattle at the time, on Beacon Hill, so there were plenty of obstacles that could thwart my first flight mission. I had to survey the lay of land carefully. All of sudden, I was a seven- or eight-year-old aviator trying to account for cross winds, air pressure, and fuel (or what normal people would call snack time). This is where the first sign of trouble reared its ugly face. “Houston we have a problem!”
On the corner of my block there was a huge oak tree; one that I was continually deprived of climbing because the couple that lived there loved their yard. There was no way they were going to allow the neighborhood kids to come and trample all over it. So the most awesome Lord of the Rings style of a tree that any child ever has seen was off limits. The disappointment of the missed opportunity to climb that tree hurts to this day, mind you. Back to the problem: the canopy of this beautiful monstrosity reached far beyond the sidewalk and into the street. Unfortunately, going the opposite direction, you were greeted by a 60-foot pine tree two houses down. “Jim, we are trapped,” I told myself.
Luckily, there was an abandoned lot next to our block where a school used to be and had been demolished it down to the foundation. Perfect! A full Seattle block with no obstacles! “God does love me,” I thought. I took a running start and let my kite catch the wind. This is a very cherished moment in my life. I was getting to the age of being able to do things for myself, accomplishing tasks that seemed impossible to me before. I was free.
The youngest of three, the one who always needed help with the door, opening a jar, having to hold someone’s hand when we crossed the street. I was now making a way for myself, proving that one day I could be strong like my brother, smart and courageous like my sister and wise like my parents. The success of my kite taking flight was my soul soaring in the winds of life, learning to take on what ever came my way and rise above it. What joy, what freedom, could a simple five-dollar kite provide.
With this newfound freedom I had suddenly discovered, came responsibility. As I released more and more line, to allow my GI Joe to soar to new heights, I soon ran out of runway. In my elation I had run the length of the entire block. My kite not yet at full length, I had a choice to make. Do I stop, potentially lose lift, and watch my beloved freedom come crashing down or do I continue into the street. I only had seconds to decide before my mission came to an end.
My freedom would not be denied! So I continued.
I took a running start and let my kite catch the wind. This is a very cherished moment in my life. I was getting to the age of being able to do things for myself, accomplishing tasks that seemed impossible to me before. I was free.
I stepped out into the street, and started making my way back to my house. I had now disobeyed rule #3 (don’t play in the street) of our agreement. In my mind, I justified it by telling myself, “It’s the middle of the day, there is no car traffic, and my house is only a few hundred feet away.” I made the “responsible” decision to continue down the street but only until I got to my house, where I would end the mission. The street was the only way to it make back due to the very climbable but neglected oak tree. I marched forward catching new winds at higher altitudes, releasing more and more line, gaining confidence every step of the way. Finally, I ran out of line, we were at full length; maximum height! I had accomplished the unthinkable; this little kid had earned his freedom and I would be able to recount my tale with pride.
That is until Rule #2 came into the picture. The simple rule of “watch what your doing”, has some grave consequences when not followed, that I was soon to discover. The whole time I was jogging with my kite, I was always looking up behind me, with amazement at how high it was reaching. Running one direction and looking the complete opposite way is not something I recommend.
At the same time, my brother had his first job and with his money he poured it into his pride and joy: a 1971 Datsun 510. As it happened, on the very same day that I had planned my kite mission, my brother parked his 510 in the street instead of the driveway where it normally is. Thus, I had not taken the car into account with my flight plan and, ignoring Rule #2, was about to come to fruition. Running at Mach one (that’s seven-year-old lingo for about a half-mile per hour), my thighs soon came crashing into a very hard steel bumper. I took a trunk in the gut and slammed head first into the trunk; the impact bounced me backwards onto the pavement landing on my back. I immediately released the handle to my kite due to the force of the impact and, as I went down like a cat trying to jump onto a slippery marble counter top, I saw my kite flailing in the wind, losing altitude and disappearing into the distance. A few minutes after writhing on the street in pain I slowly made my way up to my feet. I looked over at the back of my brother’s Datsun 510, which just sat there, stoically looking back at me as to say, “Welcome…to Rule #2”.
I recount this life lesson I learned the hard way to remind myself to pay attention to my surroundings. I believe at every point in one’s life we have to take inventory. We can easily get caught up in the successes of our lives and completely ignore the signs of our boundaries. Our desire to succeed could be costing us our marriages, friendships, relationships with our children, or even our own health. Success itself is not necessarily the issue; it’s what it costs us that’s the issue. God calls us to have a balanced life, one that is rich with a relationship with God and with our neighbors. There can even be pitfalls in doing God’s work. We learn in chapter 3 of the first book of Samuel about how Eli’s neglects to care for his family while serving God. Eli was in charge of overseeing all the worship in Israel, but in doing so he failed to pay close attention to his family. Eli failed to restrain his sons from blaspheming God, and therefore it is revealed in 1 Samuel 3:14b that “The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.” A harsh, but relevant lesson.
What a blessing our lives are, God gives us the freedom of balance. Working on spiritual growth this summer as I wrote about in an earlier edition of The Messenger, in an article titled “Broken Cisterns.” By spending time with God and asking for guidance and support, we can find that healthy balance.
This fall I am encouraged to find that balance. Whether it is through Bible study, prayer, reading to my children, or simply hanging out with those who feed my soul, I look forward to growing in my spiritual health. If spiritual growth is on your mind, there are some great people on staff at BelPres in the Belong + Grow Department who could help guide you. Turn to prayer and find your way, before you come crashing face to face with “Rule #2.”
By spending time with God and asking for guidance and support, we can find that healthy balance.