Nearly 40 years, but I remember it as yesterday. I pointed the nose of that little Piper Cub down the grass runway and pushed the throttle forward all the way. On a cold winter day, the plane seemed to leap into the air as it began its climb. Five hundred feet; turn left; soon another left turn in the airport “traffic pattern”; level off at a thousand feet. And then I looked over my shoulder. He wasn’t there! “Kip” Coleman, my first flight instructor, stood watching me from way down below. It hit me with a wave of panic: “My God, I’ve got to land this thing all on my own!”Discuss your mother memories:
On that clear brisk day in March 1969, in the moment of sheer utter loneliness that only a first-time fledgling flyer can fully fathom, I was transformed. I became a pilot! Only in his absence did I recognize the full measure of my mentor’s gift to me: Kip had given me wings and taught me to ride them on my own.
Only in the aftermath of Jesus’ ascension did his disciples finally grasp his gift to them. Only in his haunting absence at table fellowship did they fully comprehend the ongoing power of his sacramental real presence. Just as Kip’s constant prodding became forever embedded in my brain (“Watch your airspeed; put down the flaps now; look out for other aircraft; ease back on the throttle; flare, keep the nose up and land!”), so Jesus’ words to his disciples would never leave them. Seeing the rabbi’s seat empty, Peter and the other disciples took the yoke as the church’s first leaders. Rather than crash and burn, they soared into mission that 20 centuries later continues to transform the world.
In an age of profound loneliness for many—when all of us sometimes feel abandoned and on our own—rather than despair, in Ascension’s wake we can descend into the depths of holy transforming loneliness. Only the lonely can be truly open to the Spirit’s coming. Only the utterly empty will be filled with promised power from on high.
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In honor of Mother's Day and to complement the article "With just one word
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Kathleen Kastilahn blogs about the roots of Mother's Day.
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