I never thought I would skydive. I hadn’t ever really considered it. Skydiving was for my siblings. My older sister rock climbed and challenge camped and sky dived without a second glance. My younger brother is a Marine who does crazy things I never knew were physically possible. Sky diving is for the adrenaline junkies: the guys and girls that do things for the feeling, without considering logical consequences. This is why I was so shocked when Ben asked me to skydive.
Ben is logic. Everything he does—whether chemistry, fishing, gaming, or our relationship—is based on a higher morale than feeling. He observes all that he can through experience and then researches his next step so that he can live as intentionally and as well as he possibly can live. Choosing to drop 13,000 feet out of a “perfectly good plane” for the price of a week’s worth of pay betrayed my idea of logic, my idea of Ben.
Our friend Hunter, who had never been on a plane and is terrified of heights, is actually the person who talked Ben into going. Ben was impressed by Hunter’s convictions, and then researched skydiving himself. Both these skeptics asked me, another skeptic, to jump with them. What sold me were two things:
1.) Ben asked me what was preventing me from jumping. It couldn’t be death: “Death from skydiving only occurs to 15 out of 2,000,000 people!”
2.) The second was that the senior pastor of my church, Bob Merritt had gone sky diving. Then I realized that if he could, then I could!
And so I did it! I strapped up to the front of a stranger, Dustin, who picked a chute with the phrase, “hope it’s a winner!” I went 13,000 feet up into the air, scooted to the edge of the plane, and tucked my feet beneath it. I dropped 60 seconds straight through, going 120 mph. It was 40 degrees that first minute! After the freefall, our parachute expanded. I popped my ears and could hear again.
The air was warm, and the sky was mine (and Dustin’s). The world was a masterpiece, and I– I was a speck. Instead of feeling tiny under a world of stars, like I do at the North Shore on Lake Superior, I felt minuscule over a mosaic quilt of agriculture. Yet, at the same time—I was flying! We floated for several minutes down to my very own patch of sweet grass. I told Dustin “thanks for picking a winner.”
The truth is that I didn’t really think I was going to die. Not even after signing my life away in a six page packet and watching video of a bearded man saying “there’s no such thing as a perfect plane or a perfect parachute.” The truth is that there is no such thing as a perfect person, either, but faith is about recognizing the imperfections and improbability, but progressing anyway. Faith is recognizing the current futile conditions but believing that God can work out the best path through the field of obstacles you’re facing. After all, “what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.”
Skydiving is an act of faith, much like confronting illness or death of a loved one, much like writing. To jump out of a plane is to actively confront your beliefs, to open your mind and heart to something new. This process of faith is like taking a stale heart with your own two hands, and like play-do, smooshing it together and remolding it with intention. Find out what you are made out of. If you find that you can’t mold yourself into what you want to be, you will find yourself in my position. Ihave been recognizing trial by trial that I don’t have the control I desire. I am clay, in need of a Potter.
This is the same reason I write—to confront myself, recognize my fears and to confront my hypocrisy. I write so that I might recognize my need for revision and my desire for God. I guess I’m permanently skydiving material after all. My rational mind may tell me not to proceed. My heart might put up a nervous wall. My feet tingle with anticipation. But signs of nerves do not always mean “turn back.” Sometimes they will mean that the best experience of your life is just around the corner. All you need to do is realize the imperfections at hand. Confront those imperfections and misled perceptions. Confront your own worries. Then jump with all you can!