Our tradition of “Lectio Walking” began six years ago when Anna and I spent time alone on Maui celebrating our 15th anniversary. “Lectio Walking” involves selecting a few verses of scripture, reading them aloud, then pausing for a few minutes to let the words sink in. The reading is repeated four times, with a pause between each reading. After the fourth reading, each of us has a chance to say a word or phrase that stands out, and then we talk about the passage. As we returned home from Maui, we committed to making this our new rhythm. So for the past six years, Anna and I have shared “Lectio Walks” together.
A few hours after Anna went to be with Jesus on Tuesday morning, Art and our pastor Jack said, “Shawn, let’s get you some exercise and fresh air.” As Art, Jack and I walked, we decided to share in a “Lectio Walk” in her honor. Jack asked what text she and I began with six years ago on Maui. It was Matthew 5. Jack pulled out his phone and read these verses from The Message version:
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (Matt 5:3-4)
As we walked the ravine, Jack reflected on the words of Jesus about being at the end of our rope with the image of trapeze in mind. He said, “What if the end of your rope is not the bottom of a pit but the pinnacle of our flying through life? What if it’s the point when you can let go, soar and be caught?”
Over the past week, the Lord graciously placed an image on the hearts of three of our dear friends. It started with Anna’s spiritual director. The Father gave her the vision of Anna as a trapeze artist, flying through the air into the arms of Jesus, her Catcher. In the following days, two other beloved friends independently shared a similar vision, drawing us into Henri Nouwen’s story of the flyer and the catcher.
“The Flying Rodleighs are trapeze artists who perform in the German circus Simoneit-Barum. When the circus came to Freiburg two years ago, my friends Franz and Reny invited me and my father to see the show. I will never forget how enraptured I became when I first saw the Rodleighs move through the air, flying and catching as elegant dancers.
The next day, I returned to the circus to see them again and introduced myself to them as one of their great fans. They invited me to attend their practice sessions, gave me free tickets, asked me to dinner, and suggested I travel with them for a week in the near future. I did, and we became good friends.
“One day, I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying. He said, ‘As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.’
‘How does it work?’ I asked.
‘The secret,’ Rodleigh said, ‘is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar.’
‘You do nothing!’ I said, surprised.
‘Nothing,’ Rodleigh repeated. ‘The worst thing the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It’s Joe’s task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe’s wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.’
“When Rodleigh said this with so much conviction, the words of Jesus flashed through my mind: ‘Father into your hands I commend my Spirit.’ Dying is trusting in the catcher. To care for the dying is to say, ‘Don’t be afraid. Remember that you are the beloved child of God. He will be there when you make your long jump. Don’t try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.’ “
With this sweet image on Anna on my heart, I was then able to read the next verse with new eyes during our fourth Lectio reading…
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
The kids and I have lost what is most dear to us, our beloved Anna. Anna has lost what it most dear to her, her family. And yet somehow mysteriously we are all being embraced by the One most dear – the ultimate Catcher.
Know that you are participating with the Catcher as you have been there for us and will continue to be with us in the moments, hours, days, months and years ahead. The kids and I feel held and trust that you will continue to hold us and participate in the Father’s embrace of us all.