I wanted to chime in on what Sheep C wrote. Not in the way imagined. I wanted to tell a personal story and share with you a gift my children blessed me with. For my 4oth birthday (and I won't be telling you how long ago that was!) my children arranged for me to ride in a hot air balloon. They did a wonderful job of keeping it a secret. They enlisted the help of friends and family. It was the perfect gift! Little did they know what they had gotten themselves into-
Arrangements made, we awaited the day of the ride. All of us would be going together. It was no longer just a celebration of my day, but of our lives, our family. We would be doing this together and we were like children on the night before Christmas. The morning of our ride, we were all up before dawn driving to the field where we were to launch. Our first surprise awaited us. There was no majestic balloon hovering over the ground. All we saw was the man and his truck. The balloon, he told us, was waiting for us to breathe life into her. The first order of business was to help the pilot unpack the balloon. This may seem like a fairly straight forward affair. Not! There is so much that must be done just so. The basket is attached in just the right way. (Who could argue with that. Once air born, that's your safety net, so to speak.) The the balloon is laid out on the ground. Guide ropes separated from the basket attachment ropes. At this point we began to divide the labor. Some of us were at the basket end holding it in place as the balloon inflated. Others were using the guide ropes to hold the balloon and prevent it from rising before being fully inflated.
Once all the preparation was complete, we all boarded. Oh the lurch to my stomach, the thrill of lift off! There is not enough space or words to convey that single moment. No longer was I tied by gravity to this spot of earth. I was air born. A freedom one cannot experience in a plane. I had a panoramic view of the sun rise that morning. How perfect was the timing that let all the work be finished just as the first rays of the new day were creeping across the horizon!
There is more to this memory. So many lessons were engraved on my heart that day. The one that had the most immediate impact, however, was the crash landing! Yep, we crash landed. One of the oversights was not having a landing crew. Apparently, you need at least one person to remain on the ground and track your flight. When you are ready to land, this person will be waiting until one of the guide ropes in within reach (this requires expert skills on the part of the pilot as the warm air in the balloon in cooled thus sending the balloon closer to earth), grab it and in concert with the pilot, guide the balloon in for a landing. Without this person, crashing is the only way to land.
As odd as this may sound, crashing seemed the perfect way to end this ride of a life time. We were all in this together and I could just imagine the stories I would be regaling my friends with. But like every other aspect of this ride, there were rules to follow.
The pilot explained that the heat to air ratio had to be calibrated to (blah, blah, blah...I enjoy the stories of science, it's just that the practical side of it has always sounded like a foreign language to me) Suffice it to say that we were told to hold on. If one of us were to fall out (never thought that was a possibility!) it would endanger all of us. We were all needed to land the balloon safely. To lose the weight of one of us, would shoot the balloon back into the air and the pilot would not have control of the flight.
Whoa! Instantly as we prepared ourselves for the crash, I thought of the parable of the sheep. (See, even then I was being primed for this blog!) The shepherd left the 99 to find the one lost sheep. Why? Because we all matter. We can't do this alone. Suddenly a story I've known since childhood blossomed into a beautiful truth.
I matter to God in a way that until the crash prep, I couldn't take in. Just as a puzzle isn't complete until all the pieces fit together, God's world, His plan included me. I wasn't just some biological result of my parents. I hadn't been born at a random time in the history of the world. My place, my belonging, my purpose had been established before the first word of creation was spoken. I mattered! And so do you! This life, this moment in history requires all of us. No matter the circumstances of our individual lives, they/we are all intertwined, woven into a beautiful picture. The loss of one, endangers all the rest. Sheep M-12/10/08