Balance becomes a concern when you reach a certain age. Many I know have reached that age, and we talk about the importance of learning how to keep our balance, particularly in the walks we take up and down, in and out. A few years ago, I took a class discovering exercises designed to keep you steady on your feet. I learned the importance of thinking about what you are doing, or what you are going to do.
We talked about imagining a traffic light. Some things we used to do we cannot do anymore. (climbing ladders). Red light! There are other things we will need to be more careful doing. (going down stairs). Yellow light! Most of the time we can manage very well. (walking down the sidewalk). Green light. The imagery has been very helpful. Look before you leap. Think before you act.
My daughter gave me a book this Christmas. “The Book of Awakening” written by Mark Nepo, poet and teacher. It offers a daily word of inspiration that I have found worth reading. A few weeks ago he tells the story of a friend getting ready to paint his house. He has gathered together all his supples – two cans of paint, small ladder, drop cloth and a stir paddle in his mouth. He had the door almost opened when he stumbled, fell backwards, and ended up with red paint all over him. It is one of those epic stories that becomes family lore.
But Mark makes the point that with our ego, we sometimes refuse to put down what we are carrying to open the door. We go through the “red light”, not thinking, and lose our balance. Sometimes we hurt more than our pride. He puts together a simple suggestion in a few words:
I translate these into moral and spiritual steps to keep our balance. They become the deep breaths we take before entering a new experience, a new commitment, a new relationship. Even a new year. The “gathering” and “preparing” are the homework we do in anticipation of a new adventure. Like packing the suitcase with what we need for the journey. But it is the “putting down” that is most difficult. We think we can take it all. We think we can carry it all.
In following our Lord, we continually are learning what we need to put down before we enter. Put down our anger. Put down our judgments of others. “Judge not!” Put down our worries. Put down our fears. “Fear not.” Put down our pride. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.” Every day we are faced with the challenge of falling. And of failing to be steady on our faith journey.
Our Christian life is a balancing act in a variety of ways. To conscientiously and prayerfully think about what we need to let go of is a healthy ritual as we go through the many doors of life.