Lessons From the Sky

I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane today.

It. Was. Awesome.

For those that don’t know, I am casually afraid of heights. Looking down at high rides at theme parks always makes my palms sweat, heart race, and that familiar uneasy feeling appears in my stomach.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t overwhelmed with nerves or fear when preparing to dive. Perhaps the cause for which I was sky-diving overshadowed any tendency to be fearful! A wonderful friend, Tiffany Schwantes, is fighting for her life with cancer and was supposed to do the jump herself as a fundraiser. However, when she got on the transplant list, her doctors made it clear it wasn’t a wise idea. When she asked me to jump on her behalf I excitedly told her I would be honored to!

The night before our jump Tiffany became sick and ended up in the hospital so was unable to come watch the jump in person. Understandably, we were both really bummed out! As I put my gear on and awaited our departure I prayed for her and also prayed that God would teach me a lesson that I could bring back and share with others.

When it was time to board our plane I kissed my four kids and husband and bravely followed our jumping crew on to the plane. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but coincidentally, I was the last one to board the plane (closest to the exit) which meant, as you may have guessed.... I’d be the first to jump out! As we began our ascent it dawned on me... and I asked my instructor hesitantly, “Uhhh, are we the first ones to jump?” I think this is where my heart began to race a little!

My instructor and I exchanged names and some basic chitchat as the plane continued the climb. The view out the windows was gloriously gorgeous! What a beautiful day to be up in the sky! As the plane shifted/tilted I slid an inch or two on the bench toward the airplane jump exit and realized suddenly that I wasn’t actually strapped onto my instructor yet. Here I was-- up in the sky, with no seatbelt, with no parachute, and a plane window wide open. I leaned back into my instructor and confirmed my fears, “We aren’t strapped to each other yet, are we?”

“Nope. Soon.”

I scooted back quickly on the bench and searched for something to hang on to, but there were no handles or anything in sight. So, I grabbed the only thing I knew to keep my hands busy and hoped it would help steady my racing heart--- my own chest straps.

Within a minute or two, I distinctly felt my instructor attach my harnesses to his own. Immediately I felt relief. Immediately, I knew I was safe. Harnessed to the individual who had a parachute. Harnessed to an expert jumper. Harnessed to my only option for landing safely on the ground.

I realized at that moment it wasn’t the parachute I was trusting in to deliver me safely to the ground. (though I realize if the parachute malfunctioned things could get bad really fast.) But, my faith and security actually rested almost solely on the instructor! In jumping out of the plane I would be risking my life and placing my confidence in his experience. But more importantly, my safety depended on one very critical point: staying harnessed to him.

If, for any reason I unexpectedly became unattached I would tragically and immediately face sudden and certain death. A tandem skydive requires one to place absurd amounts of confidence in the equipment that bonds the jumper to the instructor. Honestly, as we fell freely through the air there were a few seconds where briefly I hardly noticed/remembered I was attached. The speed was intense and an overwhelming rush! But, when it was time to slow down and prepare to land-- when the chute shot out and immediately brought the blazing speed to a halt--- my heart screamed with joy in realizing I was still safely connected and the parachute worked! Hallelujah!

On the drive home I thought of what the beautiful parallel life is to a skydive. Whether we like it or not, essentially we are all on a plane free-falling through life. Each of us has a choice. We can choose to jump out of the plane and free fall solo, intensely flailing our arms and legs as gravity moves us closer and closer to our destination....until boom....slamming into the ground is inevitable! People who choose to jump solo have no access to a parachute so the result of their jump will end the same way every time. Absolute total destruction.

Or, we can make the choice to trust Jesus with our hearts, tether our life to His and jump. As a Christian we get the privilege of enjoying the ride and relaxing on the fall through the sky! Because we are successfully attached, and because our jumper has the experience necessary to operate the parachute-- we can savor the intense adventure with the confidence that Jesus is completely trustworthy and faithful to deliver a safe landing for us in this life.

Confidence doesn’t come from the parachute, confidence rests in the Man wearing the parachute! As a Christian, we can bravely face any circumstances in this life because we are assured that Jesus will hang on to us no matter how intense the ride down may be. Every single ones of us will have times where the speed, the fear, the adrenaline from circumstances will be so overwhelming that our emotions scream a crash is imminent. However, when we begin a relationship with Jesus as our Savior we can rejoice in the beautiful truth that it is He who hangs on to us, and not vice versa. Our faith allows us to truly live F E A R L E S S because our landing is guaranteed!