Consider this image by renowned grafitti artist, Banksy. He calls it "balloon girl". While conveying a sense of loss, it also carries an immense feeling of peace in adversity. A child-like acceptance that few real-world children in our culture actually seem to demonstrate and adults seem incapable of attempting.
For this meditation, you will need this picture (if you are leading a group, have a copy printed out or have the screen visible).
Picture a balloon, a real one. It is shiny, red-metallic and filled with helium, tugging at a string you clasp tightly in your hand.
With your imagination, feel the tug of the string biting slightly into your fingers. Feel the tightness of your grasp, the slight fear of loss, mixed with enjoyment of the balloon.
The balloon has been given to you. Something you wanted. And you are smiling, just looking at it.
Think about the balloon, how being given it makes you feel. Imagine a childish joy, watching it bob and weave in the wind, seeing your face reflected in it as it moves along above the heads of the adults around you.
In your mind's eye, tug hard at the string and then release, making the balloon dart down towards you and then gently rise. Pull the string once... twice... and on the third pull, you let go of the string.
The balloon leaves your control, floats upwards and is caught by a gust of wind. Watch it float past people who hardly notice it's there, who make no effort to catch the string. Imagine being silent, too shy to admit you want someone to catch it for you.
Watch the balloon grow smaller. And smaller. You crane your neck, your eyes trying to adjust to the glare of the sky. Your balloon is becoming a dot in the sky.
Is it still beautiful? Is the memory of it beautiful?
Are you surprised at how attached you were, or wanted to be to a simple toy? And did you feel the fear that someone else might take it?
Do you remember the sadness, as a child, of losing a cherished possession?
Have you grown up all that much?
Take a moment to consider the balloons in your life. The possessions you think of as yours, that are connected to you by the slightest of cords, that might be whipped away at any moment by a gust of wind in the form of a financial setback, a theft, a flood.
Like shiny balloons they can be beautiful, can bring us joy, can even be raised above our heads with the illusion of 'need' and 'mine'. And some of them, whether we choose to admit it or not, we love.
We become 'attached' to things that are no more ours than houses we move into and out of throughout our lives.
Picture your balloon again. Enjoy loving it, enjoy enjoying it. And then purposely let it go.
Feel the freedom of choosing to detach. Experience the lightness of knowing that it was never yours, that its memory, the feeling it gave is more perfect than the thing itself. Experience the joy of not being led along on a string by things of little substance.
Realise that letting go of the things you own, the things that own you, is liberation and peace.
If we should not worry about clothes, food, a roof over our heads, how much less should we be attached to the inessentials, the luxuries of life. And yet it's these things we are so often most concerned with.
Think of a luxury that you love. Something that you are attached to but that you do not need. It doesn't have to be an idol or bad for you in any way, just something that you love perhaps a bit too much but do not need. A vase, a CD, a dress, a pair of shoes.
Pick something that you love and give it away. Give it to someone who will be happy to receive it. MAke their day.
Don't pretend you won't miss it or that it's not fabulous. Feel every emotion of loss and relish the privilege of the freedom it will bring. Know, really know that you never needed it, that God's grace is sufficient for you.
Lord God, please show me where I am too attached to things that do not really matter. Please help me to become free of the need to own things to value them. Please show me your heart with regard to the blessings you have given me. And please provide me with opportunities to let go of the things you have given, in faith that if you want to you can give them all back to me and if you don't that that is best.
Thank you, Lord Jesus for not even holding on to your life, for me.