On the eve of the annual Great Forest Park Balloon Race in St. Louis, Missouri, is a balloon glow. The hot air balloons are securely tethered, and visitors are allowed in to see them up close, meet the pilots, and even hop into a basket for pictures. Occasionally, pilots blast the balloon’s propane burner, releasing a burst of fire that causes the balloon to light up.
A balloon glow is an impressive, almost magical sight, as dozens of balloons randomly light up, like fireflies at dusk. Still, as long as a hot air balloon is tethered to the ground, it can’t do what it was made to do. Remove its tethers, and watch it rise, almost effortlessly, and soar into the air.
Recently, I’ve felt tethered—not quite free to rise and soar, to do what I was made to do. While any of us may feel tethered by forces beyond our control—other people, our situation, or other circumstances—ultimately, it’s our own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes, along with God’s ever-present grace and mercy, that determine whether we rise above what’s got us down.
With the help of a good pastor-friend, I’ve come to recognize that my primary tether is fear. It’s difficult to admit, but too often I’ve allowed myself to be tethered by a variety of fears and anxieties: fear of failure; fear of criticism, judgment, or rejection; fear of just being myself; fear of not having anything worthwhile to offer.
Now I’m learning that the more I recognize and name the fear haunting me, rather than trying to ignore or deny it, the more courage is available to me to face the unknown. The more I believe and rest in God’s unending love for me, the less I worry about how others may respond to me—and the more easily I rise above fear to experience God’s transformation. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing easy about dealing with fear and anxiety, but they don’t need to have the last word.
For you, maybe it’s not fear that has you tethered down but guilt, anger, sadness, regret, or something else. Naming what’s tethering you can be the first step to taking back some of the power it holds over you. And learning to trust and rest in God’s love and affection for you will truly change your life—leaving you untethered and ready to rise.