Hot Air Balloons: Where God Takes Us
Oct 27, 2019 04:16AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
New seasons in life can be challenging. Sometimes it’s a new relationship, loss of someone dear to us, a new baby, a child leaving home for the first time, a long-distance move, a new job, pursuing higher education, you name it.
While of course “new” situations can be happy and positive, they often come with their own angst or anxiety. There is usually a significant learning curve. And no matter which chapter just wrapped up in our life, as we start the new one, it’s only human to spend some time looking back.
Right before my first child moved away to college for the first time, I woke up in the middle of the night and chopped most of my hair off. Crazy, I know, but I needed something new. Perhaps I was looking for a different way to define or express myself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it came from a place of needing something I could control. I could not stop time and the rite of passage he was going through in that moment, but I could decisively alter my locks!
Backing up 15 years, when we first relocated to the Boston Area (the first time) after 11 years in California, the changes were so extensive, that I distinctly remember grieving until about nine months into our new location. I loved Boston, but my marriage and family start all had firm roots in the Central Coast and Bay Area of California. (And what was up with these horsepath rotaries out here, anyway? Where were the blessed five-lane freeways?)
At times, there are those jolting, sometimes unexpected, entirely painful redirections such as a death or loss of relationship. Standing graveside placing a loved one in the ground three days after that sudden death or quivering about that marriage or friendship that surprisingly did not repair…what do we do with those unwanted paths in life?
After either one of these kinds of losses, depending on how strong a connection I had with the person, I usually find myself swirling and unfocused for months. How about you? Abandonment is my old friend, and it takes a lot of prayer and self-talk to convince myself that people may leave this earth or even relationship with me—but God will never walk away.
Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you."
Did you happen to notice that it said that “the LORD your God will go with you”? This is true if you believe in and trust His Son Jesus as your Savior. He is alongside you in the form of the Holy Spirit once you invite Him into your life.
I don’t know about you, but I really like to be grounded. For example, when we first moved to the Boston Area, I felt like I wasn’t really settled until we bought a house—but God had other plans. He shut every door (despite looking at about 30 houses and making an offer on two or three of them) because He was sending us to the Marshall Islands for two years. It wasn’t until we returned to Boston the second time that we finally put down roots and bought a home. We have been here ever since, and yet, I no longer feel tightly tethered here. Many times over, my husband and I have considered moving to a new location since then. What I thought would “ground me” and make me feel stable and in control ended up being the opposite of what God had wanted for me.
Life with God, as it turns out, is sure footing, but it is not necessarily sure footing in one place.
Psalm 37:23, ESV
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way.
He provided “a wide place for my steps” and “my feet did not slip,” but he also “set me secure on the heights.”
He is always there, when we call on Him, keeping us safe, but there are times He calls us away from where we are. He moves us in order to fulfill His purposes.
Psalm 18:31-36, ESV
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?--the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.
God’s purposes are also achieved as hearts change. Not every relationship will ground us or be permanent. In fact, the only relationship that can be fully counted on to stay the course is the one we have with Christ.
Proverbs 21:1-2, ESV
The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.
Every time God moves me into a new season, even at 47 years old, I clutch the old one so tightly, not wanting to let go. But in those times of transition, He teaches me once again that He is trustworthy. He gently pries open my hands a little and insists I let go the rest of the way.
I always fear I am going to crash into the ground, but I don’t.
He breathes me safely to the next destination as if I were in a hot air balloon. I seem to be drifting, maybe at times, but He knows exactly where I am going.
He says what He knows I always need to hear: “You can trust me. I will never leave you.”
It’s always at that exact moment that I look back to see what I let go of behind me, and it’s really okay. I do not fall. And I can live without if even when I don’t want to because He is all I really need. If this is also you, don’t be afraid of change that God may be directing you to.
If He set your balloon afloat, He promises to see you safely to the next destination.
*This article is dedicated to a special friend who took my words about God and hot air balloons, written initially in a Facebook post July 2019, and made a beautiful quilt out of it. Thank you so much for reminding me that He can be trusted as I let go.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.
A new lionhead rabbit breeder, you can follow her buck Cloud, doe Sookie, and their kits @thegivingrabbitry on Instagram.