At the End of the String (2014-09-24 Daily)
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
—Psalm 139:9-10 (NIV®)
I love to fly kites. One of my earliest memories is of flying a kite off the end of a bridge under construction when I was four or five. My family had hiked from our single-wide trailer in Vestal, New York, over the railroad tracks slicing through the woods, and onto the unfinished highway. It was a sunny day, with a moderate breeze blowing out of the west, and we sat on the newly-hardened concrete and watched those multi-colored diamonds dance in the crisp air. Thus began my love affair with all things that fly.
Fast-forward to when I was in high school, sometime in late winter or early spring. By that time my family had moved from the trailer in Vestal to a three-bedroom, one-bathroom avocado green ranch house in the town of Maine, New York. 35 years ago Maine had no stop lights, and the town was known for containing a cow population larger than the resident human population. And at fifteen or sixteen, I possessed a yellow delta-winged kite and an obsession to beat the world’s endurance record for a kite remaining aloft.
Against the odds and common sense, I launched the kite from the back yard one cloudy Sunday morning to hover over the several-hundred acre field behind our house. No snow covered the ground, and the field lay brown and smashed from the winter’s previous storms. The wind blew steadily all day from the northwest and the yellow kite, with its five-foot wingspan, flew itself as I tucked the string handle under a rock and hurried back to the house to warm up. I’m sure I spent the rest of the day watching monster movies or building model airplanes in the basement while the kite did its job in the frigid air.
Darkness rolled in under heavy gray skies, but I knew my trusty delta-winged beauty remained aloft because of the angle of the string rising from that rock, and because I could still hear the muffled snapping of the fluttering wings in the blackness. I was confident my kite, with its tenacity to keep flying in all but the lightest breezes, would hang out in the inky sky overnight. That is, until it started sleeting.
The next morning the alarm clock rattled me awake for school, but as soon as I finished getting dressed I slipped on my boots, coat, and wool hat and ran outside. My heart sank as I traced the white string in the early dawn gloom—it draped across the crowns of the winter-beaten weeds to the southeast corner of the field, near the tree line. The storm had knocked my trusty delta-winged beauty out of the sky. I slogged through the field, my heavy boots crunching through the substantial layer of ice. Wind cut through my coat and an occasional pellet of belated sleet tapped me on the shoulders, but all I could think about was my kite—it was my best flyer, and I hoped the ice and my stupidity hadn’t ruined it.
A hundred yards later I found the red keel sticking out of the blanket of sleet. I pulled the kite from the ice, brushed it off, and inspected it—the wings had been dimpled, but otherwise it appeared okay. I don’t know how long it had been lying under the sleet, but I was determined to re-launch both it and my bid for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. I held the kite over my head and the wind grabbed hold. It darted into the brisk air, eager to get on with it.
As I trudged back to the rock holding the kite handle, I ran my gloved hand along the string to pop it free from the clutch of the weeds. Certain I’d restarted the clock for the record, I took one last look at that bruised piece of yellow plastic buffeting high above the field and finished getting ready for school. The kite was still airborne when I climbed aboard the school bus smelling of diesel and ancient leather, and I vividly remember the neighbor kids talking about some idiot flying a kite in the sleet that morning. I think they also used the word “stupid.”
Needless to say I didn’t break the world’s endurance record. That came a few years later, in August 1982, when a team of flyers from Long Beach, Washington kept their kite flying for 180 hours 17 minutes—about 178 hours longer than my attempt. Despite not having my name entered into the record book, I still love to fly kites—I own several—35 years after that failed endeavor. I especially enjoy my black delta-winged kite, the one with three twelve-foot long nylon tails, blue and green and soft as silk. That kite flies in any wind conditions, and is especially solid on windy days—a good quality for the plains of north Texas.
Maybe I like to fly kites so much because, in a way, they remind me of the resiliency, steadfastness, and grace of people of faith, with God firmly holding onto the handle at the other end of the string. God reels us out with the wind and allows us to fly around to experience and learn and dance through life. We dash, we rise, we descend. Sometimes, when the wind becomes too strong, we may flip a cartwheel or spiral out of control. Every so often we may even dive into the ground. But Daddy is always there, holding on, relishing our beauty and freedom and joy in living. He lets us out during the gusts, just enough to keep us stable. He tugs on us when the wind dies down and we start to wobble and falter. He gently reels us in when the winds aloft turn squirrelly and circumstances start pelting us with the sleet of challenging times. But He’s always there, our anchor, our Rock.
When we do crash into the ground, He picks us up, repairs us, and re-launches us. If our string breaks—or worse—if we cut our own string in an attempt to fly higher or farther on our own, He chases after us, watching when and where we fall, ready to put us back together, patch us up, tie us onto His bridle again, and lift us into the sky once more.
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
—Isaiah 40:31 (NIV®)
I love to fly kites. But what I love even more is being a kite, one of God’s beloved kites at the end of His string. And I think He just might be using me to break a world’s endurance record. I’ll let you know . . . .
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes