The Balloon

Everywhere he went, the man carried brightly colored balloons. He enjoyed watching them float above his head. And it was easy to hold the string in his hand or wrap it around his wrist and take his colorful balloons wherever he went. The other people where he worked were accustomed to seeing them. They didn''t mind; it brightened the office a little. Even at night the balloons would float above the man as he slept.

One day he went to the fair and had a great time. At the fair he could blend into the atmosphere of the rides and lights and noise. Oh, sometimes people tried to buy his balloons, thinking he was a vendor, but of course he wouldn''t sell even one.

At one of the booths he filled in a ticket to see if he could win a free ocean cruise. He certainly didn''t plan on winning, but it wouldn''t hurt to try. Yet two weeks later a telegram came, he had won! He would enjoy great entertainment and the world''s finest chef providing his meals. Talk about excited! The man started packing immediately. He was ready to go days before it was time to leave.

On the morning of the big day, he called a taxi and had the driver take him to the dock very slowly. He had to go slowly because the balloons wouldn''t all fit in the taxi and he had to hold some of them out the window. At the dock he unloaded his luggage, went aboard ship, and was welcomed by the officials who had planned his trip. They even had someone take his suitcases down to his cabin while he stayed on deck and enjoyed the activity. The ship was crowded. Many people were aboard just to say good-bye to friends. Confetti, horns, streamers--and lots of balloons. He felt right at home.

Eventually the visitors left and the voyage was begun. It was great! Sailing on a big ocean liner was really refreshing. It also made him very hungry. Someone told the balloon man that the evening meal was in just one hour--a welcome relief!

The balloon man, still clutching his balloons and refusing to part with even one, eagerly awaited the dinner bell of this luxury cruise.

When they rang the bell, he started to walk toward the dining room on the second deck. The aroma of the food was so enticing. There was one problem, though. Whoever had designed the ship hadn''t left enough room for a man with a handful of balloons to get down the passageway. You could do it if you released some of the balloons, but the balloon man just couldn''t do that. He had seen some crackers and cheese on the upper deck earlier, so he went back and ate that instead. It was good. Maybe not as good as the chef''s dinner but it was good enough. Besides, he had his balloons. That night the sunset was beautiful and it was exciting to walk along the deck. But it sure got cold quickly after that. Sea air not only makes you hungry, it makes you tired as well. He asked one of the ship''s crew where his room was, and the crewman took him down a wide hall and opened the door of his cabin.

It was beautiful. They had given him one of the classiest rooms on the ship. He could see that the interior decorating was the best. And the bed looked inviting. Unfortunately, the door to the cabin was so designed that he couldn''t get all the balloons in without breaking some. He tried, but it just wouldn''t work.

Back on deck he found some blankets and a deck chair. He tied the balloons around his wrist and the arm of the chair and tried to sleep. The next morning he was still tired. All that day he ate crackers and cheese and that night he slept on deck again.

The next morning the balloon man received an engraved invitation from the captain of the ship. He had been invited to sit at the captain''s table and enjoy the specialty of the world famous chef. He would prepare it especially for the balloon man. All that day the man watched as the crew made preparations for the evening banquet, and at 8:00 p.m. the ships bell rang and the passengers began to go to the dining room. The man watched them go. Soon he could hear the murmur of voices, the sound of silverware and the clink of glasses. The aroma of the food became even more enticing.

He stood at the end of the passage way for some time. Finally he walked to the back of the ship. He could still hear the dinner in progress. He reach in his pocket and felt the engraved invitation. He knew there was a special place reserved for him at the captain''s table. Then he looked up at his balloons. It was hard to do, but slowly--very, very slowly (he hadn''t unclenched his hand for years)--one at a time he uncurled his fingers. One by one the balloons began to drift away.

As he watched, the wind caught them and blew them out of sight. The man turned and walked down the passageway. That night, as a guest at the captain''s table, he enjoyed the finest meal and the best companionship he''d ever known.

Are you hanging on to a handful of balloons that keep you from being close to Jesus? What are the names of your balloons? Are they friends? Bad habits? Sex? Possessions? Your pride? Your popularity? Maybe it''s time to just let those balloons go so that you can enjoy the relationship with Christ that is yours for the taking. "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us" (Hebrews 12:1).