Nestled behind a shelf of weighty New Testament commentaries and Bible dictionaries in my office are a little known and nearly forgotten treasure. I pulled it out the other day for a moment of reminiscence, given the celebration of Easter for the Christian church.
Rolled up and held together by an aged rubber band, it has remained colorful yet somewhat weathered and frail. One of the small dowels has come up missing over the years, and a couple of the corners, previously repaired with packing tape, were rather worn and could certainly use some reinforcement. Forty years ago, when it was first purchased, this outdoor play thing was, I believed, state-of-the-art and top-of-the-line as it cost me a “pretty penny!”
Mine was made of durable plastic, had an expansive multicolored butterfly emblazoned on it, and to top it all, didn’t even need a tail. As a poor college student, I had coughed up some “serious coin” to make this adventurous “afternoon delight” date a reality. The location for our outing was known as “the tundra” on the spacious campus of Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana.
With two bounteous rolls of string, my girlfriend and I made our way one spring afternoon to that expansive grassy knoll between the prestigious Chapel of the Resurrection and the Science Building. Preplanned, it was a blustery day, just what the doctor ordered. We spread out a blanket, and I began piecing together the day’s entertainment in preparation for the inaugural flight.
Without a hitch, and mind you again, without a tail, our butterfly kite took off as the string spun swiftly in my hand. Winds were strong, and the tug required a firm grip. As the kite soared, I carefully monitored the end of the first reel. Calling upon the aid of my “assistant,” I firmly tied to it the second spool of twine. The distance had grown so immense, the kite became barely visible to the naked eye. We passed the fun between us, as we took turns holding the line and experiencing the thrill of our radiant sailing glider.
Then it happened!
Suddenly, the string relaxed, and we instinctively knew something was terribly wrong. The line had broken. Thoughtlessly, I sprang into action, running down the hill in the direction of our wayward kite, trying futilely to keep my “eyes on the prize” as it slowly sank below the horizon. Undaunted, as I ran after the errant aircraft, I was quickly forced to navigate the four lanes of high-speed traffic along U.S. 30, which bordered the campus. Safely across the highway, I then found myself meandering through a cemetery, trying to avoid tombstones while still maintaining eye contact.
Tall pine trees lining the roads caused me to lose any visual, as I was forced off to a side road. As I attempted to keep my bearings, I encountered another major obstacle, that of an enormous excavation site the size of a small quarry. Unwilling to give up the hunt, I made my way to the opposite side of this massive “hole in the ground,” carefully surveying the landscape for any “signs of life.” The deep gorge was bordered by some elevated railroad tracks paralleled by power and telephone lines.
My girlfriend, by this time, had much more cautiously made her way in my general direction, not on foot, but by car. I, on the other hand, had almost given up hope when, while walking the tracks, I looked up and saw a thin piece of string dangling over the power lines. Mindlessly, I followed the line in one direction only to learn it was the wrong one. Back to the power lines and using a long tree branch, I reached the line, took it in my hand, and began tugging on it. The line went down into the depths of the large pit.
Soon, however, it became obvious, something was on the other end of the string as I attempted to dislodge it from the dirt, rocks and other debris below. Finally, the kite reappeared, and I leaped with unrestrained jubilation, though not a soul was in sight. Soon my girlfriend, who became my wife about a year later, joined with me in the joyous rediscovery of our kite. Together we jumped up and down on the railroad tracks, delighted to learn that which was lost, now was found!
In honor of the occasion, we named our kite the “Resurrection Kite,” and it’s been with us ever since, even taking flight again a time of two.
In certain ways it has, for us, become somewhat of an allegory for the journey of faith. It is an earnest adventure and pursuit that can get infiltrated by hindrances and travails trying to derail us and even diminish our hope. Busy-ness, losses and grief, and even huge obstacles, attempt to prevent our progression of belief over and against doubt. As a person of faith, especially this Easter season, we are reminded of how we live in the “in-between” times awaiting that grand fulfillment of life eternal.
With some of these thoughts in mind, we recently gifted a kite and a reel of string to every family at last Saturday’s Community Easter Egg Hunt. In case you’re wondering, yes, each one was boldly imprinted with a gloriously colorful butterfly, another thoughtful metaphor of that which lives, “dies” in a cocoon or chrysalis, and one day “lives again” with expanded wing and taking flight.
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org