The Greatest Balloon Ride


The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (Romans 8:14 NRSV)

As I was praying yesterday morning on my way to work sitting in a van with my friend who was driving, I found myself thinking about how much I want to be in sync with God's Spirit and will. I was thinking about a number of people that I wanted God to touch with His Spirit and was praying for my own spirit to perceive them through God's eyes more than how I feel about them. I want to be led by the Spirit of God every moment and to see reality and every situation through heaven's eyes and to remember who I really am from that perspective.

Then an analogy came to my mind that I found very compelling and I thought of the verses I just quoted above.

I want my life to have the kind of relationship to God's Spirit just like a hot-air balloon has to the wind. Of course that will mean that if the Spirit of God influences my life as described by Jesus, then others will began to view me as unpredictable as the wind as well. As I thought about this it became even more fascinating as a number of other implications began to come into clarity.

I have never had the wonderful privilege to ride in a hot-air balloon. However, I did enjoy being at one of the biggest events for this sport years ago in Albuquerque, NM where we watched many, many balloons filled up and parade around the sky. The weather conditions were just perfect that day for what balloonists like most, for the wind allowed them to carry out what they call the 'box formation'. That is where a gentle wind carries them one direction when they are near the ground and then back the opposite direction higher up so they can go back and forth over the same region many times.

I think that maybe from personal observation and second-hand information from others who have participated in this activity I can perceive some rather interesting parallels between this exciting adventure of ballooning and what God might be wanting for each one of us to experience in our individual relationships with Him.

When I consider the words of Jesus to Nicodemus about how God leads His willing children with the Spirit that is like the wind that we cannot possible know much about, I think of how a balloon is totally in cooperation with the wind. I have never heard of a balloon that failed to go the same direction as the wind around it, at least if it was free of all other encumbrances. As soon as the balloon is filled to capacity with air and then is heated with the large burners in the basket it lifts off the ground and is released by it's handlers to immediately respond and be carried wherever the wind decides to take it.

That for me is both a warning and an exciting invitation. I need to take note of anything that tends to tie my spirit down to earthly things, attachments that feel like nice security ropes that keep me stable and anchored and feeling safe but prevent me from actually enjoying the exhilarating experience of soaring into relationships of joy that I have never known before. There may be any number of hidden sins, habit patterns of thinking, emotional attachments or inhibiting relationships that may be keeping me attached to the ground preventing me from really experiencing God's desires for me even though my balloon may even be full of air and eagerly pulling toward the sky.

Another aspect of successful ballooning is that of how much weight is in the basket relative to how much hot air is in the balloon as well as its size which gives it the capacity to lift. The balloon has to be large enough to carry the weight that is placed in the basket and if it is not it will unable to get it off the ground safely. Sometimes they put what is called 'ballast' in a balloon that can be released later to give an extra lift when the hot air is not sufficient. But if too much weight in the basket relative to the size and energy within the balloon it will not be able to soar into the air safely.

Just as certain things may keep me firmly attached to the ground like the ropes preventing a balloon from rising freely into the sky, so too there may be many things hidden in my own heart that weigh me down that I may even be totally unaware of consciously. But just because I do not notice these hidden places of pain or confusion hiding deep in my heart does not mean that they do not exert a large influence over my current ability to soar the way God intends for me to enjoy. I may grow my maturity to a sufficient extent to be able to get off the ground and began to float along with the wind, but I still may be slowed down greatly and hampered in my ability to really soar high because I have not yet dealt effectively with things from my past that still keep me close to the earth.

Another aspect of ballooning is that of the perceptions of the people riding in the balloon relative to the wind around them. Everyone that I have talked to who has enjoyed this adventure has said that you never feel the breeze yourself while riding in a balloon no matter how fast the wind is relative to everything else. You can lay a paper or cloth on the side of the basket in which you are riding and it will remain still because you are in such complete harmony with the wind that is carrying you along.

As I thought about this part of the analogy it suddenly struck me that this illustrates how we can enjoy a perfect peace that passes all understanding as we allow the Holy Spirit – that wind that Jesus spoke about – to have full freedom to move our lives in any direction that He chooses. When I am in complete submission to the wind of the Spirit in my life, then no matter how slow or fast the wind is relative to other things around me I can be at perfect peace in my own heart. I may be soaring along with amazing speed and watching the world seemingly fly by, but in reality it is me that is flying with the wind and the world is simply passing away.

I then pondered what might be the significance of the most necessary thing for successful hot-air ballooning – the hot air itself. What might be needed in my own experience that would be equivalent to the hot air that is so necessary to make the balloon rise into the atmosphere? Do I really need to be 'full of hot air'?

One thing that I have been told that must happen for good ballooning is that the atmospheric air needs to be a bit chilly so that the contrast between the heat inside the balloon and the air outside is enough to give the balloon good lift. If it is too warm outside then it is much harder to get off the ground because it is the difference or contrast between the two temperatures that gives the balloon its ability to rise above its surroundings.

This actually helps me to better understand a mystifying statement that I heard many years ago. I remember hearing a quotation that said we should 'draw warmth from the coldness of others'. That always seemed rather confusing to me. How could one draw warmth from coldness? Yet the idea intrigued me and for many years I have pondered just how that might be possible.

I actually went back this morning and looked up this reference and found it interesting to see the context. Here is what I discovered.

Now is the time for God's people to show themselves true to principle. When the religion of Christ is most held in contempt, when His law is most despised, then should our zeal be the warmest and our courage and firmness the most unflinching. To stand in the defense of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few – this will be our test. At this time we must gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason. . . .
Now is the time when we should closely connect with God, that we may be hid when the fierceness of His wrath is poured upon the sons of men.
All who will gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their defections, and loyalty from their treason, will triumph with the third angel's message. {SD 201}

As I think about the potential for a balloon to rise more easily into the sky because of the contrast between its internal temperature and that of the atmosphere around it, it now makes more sense to me how the above statements could be so true. The majority of people around us may cling to false ideas about what is true, especially when it comes to our perceptions of how God feels towards us. But that must not be allowed to seep into my own thinking no matter how pervasive it is or how religious it may sound.

I need the hot passion of the Spirit of God blasting into my own interior like the firings of the heaters into the balloons to fill my own internal atmosphere with the warmth of God's love for me. As my own heart is softened and inspired by the value and love that God has for me personally, I am able to rise above the common and deluded ideas about God that pervade so many around me and can be lifted above the dark feelings that have keep me earthbound for far too long.

Father, I want this to be my experience even now. Come blast into my soul the hot breath of Your passionate love and fill my mind and heart with the real truth of how much You value and cherish me. Grow my capacity and maturity so that I can more readily rise above the cheap and common ideas around me and soar to new heights I have never dreamed of before. Bring me into full submission to Your authority so that my life will simply float in perfect peace as I keep my mind always fixed firmly on You and am carried around at will by Your Holy Spirit.

Continue to fill my soul with more and more of Your passion so that I will rise even higher than simply bumping along close to the ground. Set my soul free of the many things that still weigh me down, the things that add far too much ballast to my life. Expose these false ideas about You that I have believed for too long and help me to toss them all overboard so that the balloon of my life can soar even higher and I can begin to see reality from a much better perspective.

Thank-you so much Father for sharing these things with me. You are so incredible and loving and wise and gracious and patient. I am Your child and I want to come much closer into harmony with Your Spirit and to become more usable to attract others into a similar relationship with You.

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