We live near Conner Prairie, a living history museum that we have visited countless times throughout our time here in Indiana. During the summer months, the Indianapolis Symphony plays concerts there and throughout the year there are various programs – similar to Colonial Williamsburg, only much smaller. Time periods include 1836, 1863 and other period correct experiences, including a hot air balloon ride representative of how things were done back in 1859, Mind you, the balloon is tethered to the ground by a cable, but it still goes up 377 feet – higher than the Statue of Liberty that stands 305 feet in the air.
Now I am not a guy who likes heights. In fact, I have a real phobia about heights and I am in the only one in the family who has never taken the balloon ride. Small wonder! I can hardly watch it go up without almost getting sick to my stomach. So when we went to Conner Prairie to take a walk last Thursday afternoon, after a nice lunch on our anniversary, I had it in the back of my mind to conquer my fear.
As closing time approached, Janet and I happened to be near the ride entrance and I started talking to one of the pilots who told me that the air was so calm she couldn’t believe it – in fact, it was a beautiful day to fly. Since I had already convinced myself that it had to be a significant occasion before I would even consider the balloon, there was no better time than our 44th anniversary.
So, believe it or not, I took the plunge, so to speak. Janet and I were the only passengers and I have to admit that the experience was much better than I was expecting. After hearing stories of people glued to the floor, or sitting in a fetal position, or crying, I was quite proud of myself for sticking it out and admiring the view from the top. We could see for miles – all the way to downtown Indy and north to a wind farm a county or two away.
I can’t say that I was completely comfortable – I guess you could say that I was in alert mode – waiting for something to go wrong. But we got through it fine and one of the fears I had was faced head-on. I don’t know if I would do it again, but I think that I might.
I am reminded of the story of the Tower of Babel. The people were building a tall structure that would get them closer to God. It was quite a feat and God even remarked that by working together nothing would be impossible for them. The structure, generally thought of as a ziggurat, was a rectangular structure that had multiple levels – each smaller in size than the one below. While some theologians believe the purpose was to get higher and closer to God, others believe that the people were vain and built the monument to themselves. In fact, the Scripture references this very point. Whatever the truth, God thwarted their effort, and that event is our verse for the night.
Moses, the author of Genesis, tells us, in Genesis 11:4-9, “Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”
The confusion of the languages continued until the formation of the church at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit allowed the people to hear each other in their own language. But that verse is for another time. Suffice it to say that the balloon ride touched a note in me about being a little closer to God. Not that it is necessary. God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient (all powerful, all present and all knowing) so whether I am on the ground or 377 feet up in the air, God is still there, with me every step of the way.
My encouragement this evening is that God is with each one of us who believe in Him regardless of where we are. He hems us in with His hand holding us fast. In fact, there is no place we can go where God is not already there. And that should give us hope and comfort. We don’t need to build buildings or go up in balloons to feel closer to Him. My prayer this evening is that you will let the presence of God wash over you wherever you are. We are never alone – not even for an instant and now I can even say I have been up in the balloon to prove it! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…