Various groups were laying their balloons out on the ground and the race was on to get them inflated and ready to go. There are time limits and tasks to accomplish throughout the race so everyone was keen to be the first to fly. As morning broke and light filtered through the clouds, the balloons took on a life of their own, bursting into a kaleidoscope of colour.
I stood in wonder at the transformation of a flat piece of material into something truly majestic, but it was a painful process. Sometimes when it was half inflated it would flutter again to the ground like an exhausted dove and the whole process would begin again. Patience, perseverance and team effort and suddenly she was up, the beauty of her colours accentuated by the rising sun.
After watching about a third of the balloons return, the rest went sailing by, high in the sky. An official told me that the wind had changed and the rest were unable to accomplish their task. I’d been so caught up in the wonder and intrigue of it all that I hadn’t thought about their dependence on the wind. They weren’t in control, the wind was.
My heart sank, but to the markets we went. Filled to overflowing with French furniture, exquisite furnishings, painting, sketches and memorabilia, they were outstanding markets and beyond anything we could imagine back home. The morning passed quickly and as we exited the markets, chatting about all we’d do with the afternoon ahead, I was mugged.
In one horrible moment I lost everything, my money, credit cards, even my bus ticket back to Oxford where I was staying. Suddenly, everything we’d planned, all those weeks of dreaming and anticipation felt swept away … in one inconceivable moment, everything changed.
Returning to the hotel for a much-needed cup of tea, I remember vividly saying to my daughter, “Well he’s taken everything but I refuse to let him rob us of the fun and enjoyment of this trip. We will find another way". And we did.
- Change challenges. I experienced things I would never have chosen for myself. It took me around corners I wouldn’t have turned, and forced me to explore the unknown and find its hidden benefits.
- Change exposes. It taught me a lot about myself. It showed me my capacity for handling trauma and how I react in an emergency. It forced me to be innovative and dig deep inside myself to find courage.
- I view change through my lens. The mugging reminded me that the labels I put on experiences, ‘bad’, ‘tragic’, ‘horrific’, are my perspective. It’s only in hindsight that I saw how God turned it for good and that it enabled me to grow in faith.
Sometimes change comes as a strong wind that blows us off course, sometimes as a hurricane that turns our world upside down with searing pain or loss. But the haunting voice of change always calls us to have the courage to step out into the unknown in faith and find what we might never have chosen for ourselves. The greatest growth lies beyond change and how we handle that change reveals a great deal about who we are and who we can become.