What Christ taught me from jumping out of a perfectly good airplane
Just over a week ago, my wife and I went skydiving for the very first time in our lives. Individually, we have each wanted to do this for a very long time. Since getting married, we have talked about it off and on, but we just never got around to actually making it happen. However, for my birthday, she surprised me by purchasing a tandem skydive for each of us.
She said that she had been thinking about it recently and really felt like Christ was going to do something amazing through this experience. We would not be disappointed.
Once she told me she made the purchase, it was not longer just a theoretical discussion. It was real. And that’s when the fear and doubt crept in.
You see, for anyone that knows me, they can tell you that I am really scared of heights. It isn’t the literal height that scares me, but the fear that something might happen to me or another person. It doesn’t matter if I or someone else is 10 feet up a ladder or 200 feet up a cliff, I am seized by the fear that something bad could happen.
But I really wanted to do this. I really haven’t let this fear prevent me from doing many things, but in the past the fear has prevented me from enjoying the activity in the moment.
On the day of the adventure, we show up at our designated time, expecting a short wait of a few hours. We were supposed to come at 12:30, but they called the day before and said if we come at 3pm our wait will be much shorter. Not so much. They were on load 14 when we arrived and we would later find out we were on load 23, which would turn out to be the last load of the day. But more on that later. So, what do you do for 5 hours while you wait to jump out of an airplane? People watch mostly and contemplate what you are about to do.
About 45 minutes before we were supposed to jump, we geared up, which pretty much just involves putting on a harness. Not long after that, and about the time I was completely bored out of my mind, one of the professional jumpers came through and said, “I am really sorry for how long you have had to wait, however, your wait is going to pay off as you will be jumping while the sun is setting.” Well, ok, I guess that might be pretty cool.
Finally, it is our turn and we walk out and get on the plane. Everything is fine until we get to 5000ft and someone opens the door (which is really nothing more than a small plexi-glass version of a garage door, that slides up and down). At that point I started to get a little nervous and internally may have been freaking out.
One of the professional jumpers (the one that was jumping with my wife) asked if I was nervous. I said, “No…well, yes. Half of me is fine and excited, but the other half of me is freaking out because I don’t like heights.” The guy pointed to his head and I said, “I know it is all up in my head, that is the frustrating part.”
At this point, I turned and looked out the window at the setting sun and had the following conversation with the Lord:
Me: I am afraid that, just maybe, something bad might happen. I might fall out, someone else might fall out. It could happen. But I shouldn’t be afraid. I know that. I know that I am inside an airplane and I am strapped to a guy who has 10,000 jumps under his belt. So why am I so afraid?
God: Good question.
Me: It’s so frustrating. I do this in life as well. I know that, like I am secure in this plane, I abide in you and you abide in me, and that like this guy strapped to my back, you are always there, always in control, and completely knowledgable about what is coming up and what is going to happen, I should never be afraid.
God: No, you shouldn’t.
Me: No, I shouldn’t.
And in that moment, all the fear left me. Gone. Just like that. I wasn’t nervous anymore. I was relaxed and calm. You know, until the door opened again at 14,000ft.
The first people out the door were two fun jumpers (these are certified skydivers who, as the name suggests, jump for fun). They both climbed out the door and hung on the outside of the plane. The green light was given and they both just fell away from the plane. When they let go, my first thought was, what if they hit the horizontal stabilizer and get cut right in half? I know, morbid. I didn’t realize how quickly you fall away from the plane. The downward force of the wind coming off the wing combined with gravity???? The first tandem jumper is next. They get to the door and are out pretty quick.
Now it is my turn. A quick waddle to the door. My feet are now hanging over the edge of the door, as is my chest and head. I am looking straight down. It is a surreal feeling, but you have no time to really think about what is happening. As soon as I am in the doorway, the guy grabs the sides of the door, counts to three, and launches us out the plane.
And then we are falling. Well, logically I knew we were falling, but there isn’t that sensation in the pit of your stomach like you get on roller coasters and the ground does not approach quickly. No, you just feel like you are floating on a cushion of air. You are free fall at 115+ MPH so that air is hitting you pretty hard and the noise is deafening.
The guy turns us around so we are facing the setting sun and we just relax, as one does at 13,000ft, taking in the spectacular view.
A minute later, and 9000 ft closer to the ground, he deploys the pilot chute, which deploys the main chute. There is a significant jerk, and then we are gliding. What I wasn’t prepared for was the utter silence. After the deafening roar of the wind the last minute, the silence is only magnified. We talk about the view, my wife, and other normal things. Four minutes or so of this and we are landing.
What gets me is the fact that from the time it was my turn to exit the plane until I land, I experience no fear, no anxiety, no worry. Instead, I was able to soak in the amazing experience and stunning views without being burdened by thoughts about “what might happen.”
This was possible because I put my trust in the guy strapped to my back and rested in the fact that he knew what he was doing and was in complete control. We were strapped together, so in effect, we were one person, and what happened to one of us was going to happen the other one. I responded to his signals and leading and did what I needed to do in the moment. Other than that, I just went along for the ride and enjoyed the sensations and the view. That would not have been possible had I let fear grip me and control my thoughts.
In Colossians 1, Paul talks about a mystery that has been hidden for ages but has now been revealed to the saints. That mystery, Paul says, “is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Twice in John 15, Jesus says “abide in Me and I in you.” In Ephesians 2 we learn that God “made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
At this very moment Christ dwells in us and we dwell in Him. We have nothing to fear. We can trust that Christ in us will lead and direct us in our lives and we just have to respond to His signals. Instead of being afraid or worried or anxious and allowing those things to distract us from the beauty of the adventure, we can rest in Him and enjoy the experience and the view.
Because He is in complete control, because He is outside of space and time and thus has already experienced the End of time, because He is “strapped to us,” we can just BE and when we do this we are able to see and experience all that Christ has for us.