Trapeze God Pointing This is That
image: Public Domain.
There is something magnificent about trapeze artists and the moments of courage, flight and salvation as they leave, hang in the air, and then arrive. What if you leapt towards your partner only to see them desperately signal ‘No’ in their eyes? Or for the ping of quarantine to be heard and then their refusal to catch you?

This season is quite trapeze-like – the exhilaration of a new kind of social freedom and the frozen dread of finding ourselves in solitary isolation. I have experienced some great bits of freedom: theatre, art gallery – both probably too thought provoking and complex for my country-mouse- small-world-shrunken brain – eating in a restaurant, travelling on a train. It’s not quite like rocket travel but it feels just as dangerously exciting.

And then church has also returned to in-the-room possibilities; feelings that are strange, warm, emotional, delightful. And this week, in our church, much isolating and holidaying reduced the usual team so that we ended up with online/in the room/on zoom – a mad mix and crashing together of platforms that left those watching online bemused and somewhat alienated by unforeseen tech problems and those in the room aware that they were also a studio audience in need of warm up host and laughter boards to be held up at suitable moments of hallelujahs and amens.

Having all these new possibilities also makes what we have experienced, and still do, to a great extent, feel more raw, less satisfying, more lonely, less connected. We have either left one trapeze only to find a very fragile grip on the new one, or not left yet but also having lost our usual swing and momentum. In some ways it’s the worst of both worlds: daring to hope again but with that awareness of higher infection numbers and people very seriously ill and dying; and a suspicion that another lockdown could well come our way. The rules keep changing slightly, shall we-shan’t we – its back to the dark comedic days of Do go out-Don’t go out.

The result for many of us is less patience, less grace towards people’s mistakes, more offence taken over lack of clarity. Strangely I was slightly told off for wearing a face covering the other day, which was a new surprise – I only put it on to be polite to someone serving in a café. We revert to frustration over thwarted plans and outcomes rather than mutual kindness and awareness of a shared predicament. Andy Flanagan, from Christians in Politics, has a great video called ‘Influence’*, where he contrasts our impulse to be functional in (even good) expectations rather than relational. Andy strongly steers us towards a slow and steady accomplishing of good through relationships rather than through always wanting to achieve results.

We don’t often know whether we are here, there or in-between. As we go for the slow rebuilding of trust, gradual change, knowing and working through different opinions, and navigating an ever-changing landscape, then eye to eye relationship – fixing our gaze on our fellow trapeze artist rather than assuming our next expected circus trick will happen automatically – is the right way to orientate ourselves.

The apostle Paul puts it this way in Colossians 3:
13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Martin J Young

*Influence -


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