“Around the Campfire” is a new feature in which our very own readers swap stories about having an encounter with God. Today’s post was provided by my lovely wife, Leah Clouse. If you have had an encounter with God, I would like to encourage you to share it with us. Your past run-in with God might very well be someone’s next encounter with him. You can use the form on the “Contact Us” page, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Leah Clouse
In the fall of 2005 I was preparing to embark on the long trek to Knoxville, Tennessee for what would be a life-changing transition onto adulthood. The transition was already proving itself to be a difficult one for me because I didn’t have the usual support system of emotional parents trying to put on a brave face. I was, in fact, flying pretty much solo. I asked my mentor what I should be doing to prepare and his advice was this: just let go.
Over the years this phrase has embedded itself deep into my heart. I repeat it to myself when I feel anxious. I doodle it onto lists and journals in hopes that it will remind my wayward soul that my life is not my own, and that’s a good thing. This tiny phrase has kept me grounded and connected even when I wasn’t sure what I was needing connected to. It’s my lifeboat. I often gather up my troubles like a child collecting shells on the beach. I fill my arms with everything I can and cannot control alike. Then I lay them all in a neat little row and I WORRY. Without these words I’d sit around all night lining them up over and over again. Worrying over and over. Controlling. Micromanaging. I never see it coming but eventually the tide comes in and threatens to swallow me up. Without those words I’m certain I would allow my troubles to sink me every time. But then I remember to just let go. It’s a little like drowning and remembering to stand up. It’s actually JUST like that, and no less embarrassing.
Several months ago during the course of my therapy I realized that my anxiety and nightmares stemmed from a desire (and subsequent inability) to control my every surrounding; thereby preventing myself from ever being caught off guard or hurt. Without logical rhyme or reason I started to imagine myself endlessly holding tight to a balloon and would “let the balloon go” from time to time as a symbolic gesture of relinquishing control. Opening my hand and letting go has become a daily ritual for me that makes me feel neurotically at peace.
As I’ve progressed in therapy I’ve been doing what is known as “inner child work”. In doing so I’ve become connected with a portion of myself long since forgotten and ignored. I imagine now that it is actually my inner child who is holding so tightly to the balloon. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this beautiful little film while aimlessly scrolling through Netflix.
For those of you without 30 minutes to spare (although, really, seriously, just watch it), it’s about a little boy who wanders the streets with his red balloon, only the balloon has grown attached to the boy and is sentient in its own right. The balloon follows the boy and looks after him lovingly. That is, until the other children grow jealous and destroy the balloon. The boy calls out to the balloon to fly away, but it won’t. It succumbs to its death in order to be with him… But then…Suddenly, inexplicably, and out of no where every balloon in the city launches itself from every corner and crevice. They encircle the boy and take him floating through the sky above the city.
As I watched this boy and his balloon I was stopped by the timeliness of such a random film and its appearance into my life. There were a few moments in the film that I noticed the balloon appeased the boy by allowing him to hold the string even though the balloon had proven it wasn’t going anywhere. During those moments I thought about my own balloon. It is, in fact, God who is enveloped in my balloon. He’s who I insist on holding tight to and steering along even though really, He’s not going anywhere and He most definitely knows the way far better than I. He’s swirling around me all the time just begging me to just let go so he can lead us somewhere I’ve never even dreamed of. Or maybe we won’t go anywhere for a while. Maybe we’ll just be with our hands open and our hearts full.