A Girl And Her Balloon

When you have three children under ten, there’s no point taking a vote on where to go out to eat. You’ll be outnumbered, and there’s only one option in this area that offers the triple crown of childhood meals: nuggets, toy, and balloon – it’s going to be McDonald’s. This was our reality at the beginning of 2016, so after an event in the city one weekend, we made tracks for the Golden Arches. I don’t remember the toy that day (most of those things are forgotten by everyone a few nanoseconds after we get home, only to be rediscovered later inside the couch or under a seat in the car), but I’ll never forget Rebekah’s balloon. She picked it out before the meal, carefully selecting the pink one for herself, distinct from the blue and green of her brothers. She ate next to it happily, and played with her toy. Then we got up to leave, walked out the door, and when she spotted the sky, her eyes lit up. She held her balloon as high as she could and stood up on her toes… but something was wrong. A cloud of disappointment moved over her sunny smile:

“I thought it would make me go up”

When Rebekah stepped outside, she fully expected the McDonald’s balloon to make her fly. Her disappointment at discovering the reality of gravity was profound. And when I think about it from her perspective, there is a certain logic to it: Winnie the Pooh could do it, so why not Rebekah?

Sometimes reality really does hold us down. The girl believed, but the balloon still couldn’t fly. You could say that her belief in the balloon was childish, but it seems to me that it was actually rather adultish: Isn’t it us adults who love to put our trust in politicians to save us, medicine to cure us, and systems to improve us? Yes, some politicians could (conceivably) keep their promises, some medicines could heal, and some systems could help, at least for a while. But all are limited, and no amount of extra belief on our part will compensate for their inadequacy. These balloons won’t be strong enough to lift us for long, even if we give them our complete confidence.

Still, we’re all small like the girl, and we’re all looking for something to lift us above the brokenness we see in and around us. We’re all putting our faith in some kind of system, movement, or person (even if it’s just ourselves) to help us rise above this mess of a planet we call home. But as we look for a balloon to lift us, the question should not be: “How much faith do I have in my balloon?” But rather: “Can this balloon actually get me off the ground?” Is what I’m believing really true? Does it have enough power to change broken realities? Belief alone won’t do the job, but I believe there’s Someone that can: Someone who entered our mess of a world, bore our pain, and broke the power of death itself. You may not agree with me, but the question remains:

What are you putting your faith in, and why?

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