Northern Exposure and Protection

Stiff, they were … gloves of leather and canvas stripe.
The pair I was given on my zipline adventure were new … worn only once or twice.
Before my we reached the end of the tree-top hike, a small hole had worn through
at that little padded spot just inside the palm … below my ring finger.
“How much longer would this pair be used?”  I wondered.
And important … these gloves? They serve as a brake.
When riding through the canopy on cables of steel,
your own protected hand is your brake …
the brake that stops you from whirring 5? 10? mph
through the air
into the sturdy, strong trunk of the very tree
that serves as the anchor for the line on which you travel.
An open palm behind the mechanism that holds your weight harnessed onto the trolley serves as brake.
Place your hand in FRONT of the trolley wheels, your own weight and gravity propelling you forward …
and you are likely to be pinched … through leather, of course.
So, we were instructed to lay our open, leather encased palm behind the trolley and gently press
that the friction would slow you
to a stop.

I watched our guides … grown-up-little-boys … not so different in attitude from my own man/child at home.
They make their living playing on a tremendous steel-cable-and-wooden-platform playground
elevated and bouncing its way through the canopy of north Georgia’s forest in Lula …

… their job loads of fun
but, oh-so-serious.
One careless mistake and a life could truly be lost …
or very seriously injured.

They carefully trained us on how to control our speed, follow their hand signals and keep our body facing the direction we would travel.

And then I noticed, they didn’t have “good” gloves … their gloves weren’t new … like mine.

Brett’s thumbs were exposed to those cables … that screamed from the friction of the trolley  …
his hands were at risk of being burned by rushing cable
as he would brake to a stop at each wood perch high above the ground.

And Steven?
Steven’s gloves were tattered on the edges at the wrist
and some of his fingers were exposed. Shouldn’t he, being a leader and a guide …
a precious servant of the owner of this business
an important commander of these adventurous groups …
shouldn’t he be best equipped to be cushioned, insulated and guarded from injury?
Wouldn’t it make sense for these men to be kept from trauma
that they might lead with strength and health from start to finish of each journey?

If these men weren’t “protected” …
if the owners … the founding fathers of this business
didn’t guard these men
these guides
their own employees
their servants
their family
from injury ….

how could I possibly feel safe?

Safety. There it was again. I was contemplating protection.

But, I noticed
that their hands had no wounds …
no scabs
or bruises.
Flesh was not pulled away from past injury.

I questioned ….

Steven exposed his hands fully …
palms up with full sections of leather ripped away ….
cut away … precisely, in fact, in preparation for the specific job
that these gloves perform.
These gloves … with tattered canvas in strings,
he explained
were personally designed for his job.

With new gloves … new leather … his movement would be limited.
With thumbs and fingers covered, he couldn’t quickly snap and unsnap the D-rings
that kept us tethered to cables of safety.
WithOUT the thumbs and fingers cut away, he would be limited in his ability
to do his job … to quickly, efficiently, effectively care for us
and keep us safe.

The amount of protection that he needed – trained and “professional” –  to keep from being injured
was not the same amount that I needed – untrained, learning, “rookie” – to stay safe in the air.

I thought of David. A simple shepherd boy making a lunch delivery to a battlefield to visit his brothers who were warriors fighting the gnarly Philistines. He offered to bravely do what he knew that he could because he was equipped with the tools and experience to take out an enemy.  He had a few smooth stones and a sleek, worn leather slingshot. He convinced the warriors that he was worthy to fight for them.

1 Samuel 17: 38 tells us, “Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.”

So he took them off.

40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.”

Saul thought he knew best. He gave David his own equipment: a huge, heavy helmet and a coat of metal armor (his war tunic). This equipment suited Saul well … but was incredibly heavy and extremely cumbersome on David’s smaller, youthful, fit frame.
So much so … that David … couldn’t even walk.

David knew that Saul had his protection in mind.
David tried on the armor and helmet,
but David knew better.
He knew his skill set and his ability
and he knew he had to be free to move
in order to perform this new task with accuracy and agility.
God had put him in a place to do a job
that he was well-trained to perform –
regardless of how out-of-place he looked to others on the battlefield.

Do you see the spiritual/physical parallel? This is us, isn’t it?

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

I see it for myself. Like Saul, I think I know how others should do things. I  want them protected in the way that I know is best … in the way that has best protected me when in the same situation. The way that is status quo for me  … and expected.

But, if I weigh them down with my form of “protection” … I may very well
paralyze them …
leaving them unable to even walk …
much less fight the battle well.

I am trying to keep this in mind
as I prepare to search for a job …
as I watch my own children stretch their wings and fly …
as I go about daily life.

I want to be open to walk into unfamiliar territory
with my particular skill set
and do the things that I feel equipped to do … because I have had much practice.
I want to support – but not overpower – my children
as they set foot into unknown terrain
knowing that
they are ready for what lies ahead
because they have had years to prepare
and they may not look like they are doing it “right” …
because they aren’t doing “it” the way that others have before them.
But, they are well equipped and ready
because they have had years of practice.

The business owners, like our mighty God,  know each person, his skill set and his experience.
They have trained each leader to do what needs to be done.
They have equipped each spirit with the expertise to go forth.

I just need to remember
that each set of gloves will look different
and they are hand crafted to be fitted and equipped for each person
for each job
by a loving God
who knows our skill sets
and the battles into which we walk.

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