When I was small one of the things I longed for was a trampoline. There was one family that I remember having one. It was always such a treat to be able to jump, and I so wished that we could get a trampoline too.
Sport, movement and co-ordination were never my strong points. It was a moment of tremendous pride when I got that move right… jumping on feet– knees- bum – back to feet. What a star! That was about the best I could ever get right. I might have learned some other tricks had we had a trampoline of our own (they were so expensive in SA when I was small, so it never happened) but the wish was there.
I was struck by God’s sense of humour when we first came to look at this house in Bwiru. There stood a trampoline in our garden! I have a trampoline! Wow! Another element of humour is that we do not have children to enjoy it… but I knew there is a reason for it being in our garden. Some Wazungu (whities), somewhere in the past of the house, got it to Tanzania with great effort and it stands in our garden! I have not felt the longing to go jumping on it yet, but invitations to visitors with kids always includes the allure of the trampoline.
There have been a number of kids who have enjoyed it so far, and it brings me such enjoyment to see the joy, fun and high-higher-highest jinx the kids get up to.
I usually worry terribly too:
After several years of African sun and rain, the rust has built up badly and each jumping session keeps me praying that the trampoline will stand a little longer and not konk in totally.
Earlier today there were kids who got to play as a break during craft class.
These little ones know how to do it! The last minute or so saw all of them climbing on (there are normally number restrictions to keep the thing from collapsing). And boy, do they love it. Playing ‘popcorn’, seeing who can go highest, tricks that they know are fun.
While the number-control was in place some of the older kids were not thrilled at standing waiting and clung to the outer edges, grabbing every moment of tramp time they could. Not quite on the springy part, but enjoying a challenge of being almost there, just waiting for a chance to be in there, all effort, all energy.
Later this afternoon, I heard kids’ voices outside. I wondered if some of the children from earlier had returned, but I looked to see that our garden worker, Mussa, had brought two of his children to help him do his work. I left the children for a while and heard them carrying a way buckets full of pulled grass.
Then I wondered if they too would enjoy a little bit of jumping. Mussa had seen the children jumping earlier and as my Swahili is far too basic to instruct at this time, he was able to tell the children what to do.
And then God started speaking to me.
Just yesterday my friend had encouraged me to look at this video.
The parallels were obvious.
Little Debi’s first step or two were hesitant, but almost immediately he began jumping. Lifting feet, throwing his arms up for momentum, leaping into the air.
Na-ema was far more careful. Maybe it is a girl / boy thing, but she just did not want to move away from the edges.
Baba (father) stood on the outside, shouting, “Go to the middle! Go jump there!”
The middle is scary. Away from the edges, that are so secure to hold on to. Where the give of the trampoline is so much more. You can SEE it from the edges. One bounces more. Higher. closer to the clouds. And to the ground below the trampoline.
But that is where the fun and abandon is greater too. More euphoric. Greater joy.
And when he saw how his children were beginning to jump, Mussa laughed so. The tears ran. He delighted in his children’s joy. It was a pleasure for him that his children were doing something so extra-ordinary (Trampolines are FAR outside the daily experience of 99% of Tanzanians). That they had gone up the steps, crawled through the hole of netting, and had stepped onto the great black expanse. They were jumping. And Baba was thrilled at their glee.
Then I encouraged Mussa himself to climb on.
It took a bit of coaxing, but he got on. It was obviously funny to see him experience something so strange below his feet, and it took a number of tries before he could stand up straight for longer than a few seconds. But then he let go. The kids climbed on and joined him again…
When Na-ema knew Baba was near, she felt free-er to jump. The absolute glee that these three radiated for these minutes was a privilege to observe. Normally dads and their kids do not play together in Tanzania. But here it was: father loving that his kids were happy, kids loving a few moments of seeing Baba going through the same struggles of standing that they were. But loving it when they flew through the air. And feeling that when they came down, the landing was soft. There was a support below them, that would not let them land on the hard cement below.
They could jump, safely. Trying a new experience, however terrifying it may have been at first, but now such fun.
The Father longs to see His children in delight. He encourages us to test our faith, to try those challenging things He has called us to (please let me know if you find the Bible verses that point out that God seeks our safe, sedate, calm little lives). He yells: “Go to the middle. Yes, it is deeper there. But GO!”
And He even joins us. God incarnate came, to join us in our experiences of life. He put on frailty, humanity and joins us. In the middle. In the storms (there were several that Jesus went through with His disciples).In hysterical laughter with His disciples at times. In deep grief if they fell and experienced a boo-boo (as the kids sometimes get on the trampoline). But He was THERE. With them. Not just standing aloof, wishing they would stop having such fun.
And He says to me today: Go to the middle.Climb the rickety steps. Crawl through the net. Get into the big unknown.
It seems like God is trying to say something to me right now. I have a longing to go deeper than where I am with Him. Clinging to the edges, holding onto netting sides that are not really as strong as they seem, while others are leaping wildly, enjoying the freedom of faith in things they cannot really understand, but they bound upwards, outwards, in the middle where the most fun is to be had.
Perhaps you, too, need the nudge. Go. To the middle.
Go do that thing you have been scared of. Go deeper, free-er. You will not be alone. Father is there. He is everywhere.
And perhaps He will bring your ‘trampoline’ to your garden. Not just for your own enjoyment, but to share the joy with others. His love is never meant for singular enjoyment, but is always intended to stretch further, wider, like the taut springs that keep the trampoline in its place but moving out too.
Go for it. Jump. It is fun in the middle…