The Flying Rodleighs were a South African trapeze act who performed in the German circus Simoneit-Barum. When Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen first saw the Rodleighs, he was captivated by their skill and daredevilry. He returned to the circus the next day and, afterward, introduced himself to Rodleigh, the troupe leader. Over a period of time, Nouwen and the troupe became friends.
One day, as Nouwen was remarking how much he admired the flying trapeze artist, Rodleigh surprised him by redirecting his admiration to another member of the troupe: “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.”
He continued, “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.”
Nouwen recalls that, as he listened to Rodleigh, the words of Jesus flashed through his mind: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). As Rodleigh entrusted his safety into Joe’s capable hands, so Jesus entrusted his very life into his Father’s hands, confident that has Father would not let him see corruption.
Jesus understood the true nature of faith. Human nature longs for control. As long as we feel in control, we can maintain a perception of safety. But when control is wrenched from our grasp, we learn that true safety lies in trusting God, not in controlling our circumstances.
Faith is often displayed in a willingness to surrender our desire for control into the hands of the one who is truly in control. Like a trapeze flyer—and like Jesus—faith is willing to commit life into God’s hands as the divine Catcher, whatever the outcome. And faith does so because it knows that God will not fail to catch us.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many feeling as if they are flying uncontrollably through the air, desperately grasping for a catcher who may not be there. Let us learn from Jesus that our heavenly Father is the surest catcher of all. He will not miss the hand stretched out in faith. He will not drop the flyer. When the economy crashes and job security is forfeited, when health fails—even when death, the final enemy, takes us—we can safely commit our lives into the Father’s hands, knowing that he will catch us. He is in perfect control, he will graciously provide, and he promises living hope beyond the grave.
Let us learn to trust our divine Catcher together.