It may come as a surprise to some of you [it will not come as a surprise to anyone], but I have always been a risk-taker. I live life on the edge – because the view is always better from the edge, despite it being a little more dangerous.
So anyone that knows me knows that I am willing to try just about anything at least once.
Including skydiving [thrice, actually].
Actually, my first time flying in an airplane, about 4 or 5 years ago, I jumped out of it. I went again a couple of years later. And two weeks ago [the reason for this post], I just went jumping out of a plane for a third time.
Now for those that say, “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?!” It’s ok … I made the pilot scream “FIRE!!” before we jumped out, so I’m not completely sure the plane was perfectly good. I mean, how can I know it wasn’t really on fire?
Anyway, I went skydiving (queue Tim McGraw song), and I was reminded of my first experience with the extreme sport. It made me feel a way that I can only express as “life changing.”
Jumping out of a plane at 10,000 ft. in the air is feeling that can’t truly be explained. The only actual way you will ever know what it felt like is to do it yourself – which I understand is out of the question for most people. So that’s why I am going to try my best to explain the experience, as well as the existentialism behind it, and how it changed my life.
There’s just something about simply making the decision to do something so dumb and dangerous as skydiving – but I think it’s just like any big decision in life. Maybe you hate your job and you decide to quit; or you have an idea for a business and you decide to begin; or you fall in love and you decide to get married. It all starts with a cognitive decision. You know what you want to do, so you decide you’re going to do it – despite any obstacles that may arise, and despite not exactly knowing what the next step is.
It begins with that decision.
And truth-be-told, the decision to do what you set out to accomplish must be a constant decision. Because throughout all the other steps, there will be ample time and opportunity to stop, so this step is really automatically intertwined into each of the next steps.
Because you always have to make the decision to keep going.
Whether you call ahead and make an appointment with the skydiving facility or simply call friends and say “hey, we doing this or what?” the decision has been made and the appointment proves that it isn’t just a thought.
:::I made a decision and an appointment … I gonna freakin’ jump out of an airplane!:::
In the context of life, after a person makes the decision to do something, he/she has to decide on a timetable – when the execution will take place. At this point, the action is still a work in progress; the “planning phase,” if you will. It still has not become a reality outside of one’s own mind, but the reality is getting closer.
So the date finally comes, and your anxiety has built up over the last couple of days because you know you’re about to do something that could possibly kill you, yet you’re still willing to move forward with said activity (or maybe you have no anxiety, just excitement – don’t worry, the anxiety will come at some point).
In life, once you’ve made your mind up about something big and you go through the planning phase, there’s not much else to do until you actually make your first real, tangible move.
With skydiving, the first tangible move is getting in your car and arriving at the drop zone/airport where you will begin the ascent.
Now this is a very important step in the process of skydiving – this is the time, before you even step foot on the airplane, where you learn what it is you’re getting yourself into. A trained instructor tells you the inherent dangers of the tandem jump (oh, yeah that’s right, on your first jump, you’re not alone. There’s a professional that jumps with you – the person is strapped tightly to your back and he/she is the one that has control of the parachute). Of course you know there’s a possibility of serious injury or death … it’s skydiving! But he also tells you the best way to avoid danger – which is simply by following certain rules and going through specific motions which he teaches you.
This is a very important step in skydiving, and it should be important in life as well. When you prepare to make a big move in your life and have followed the steps thus far, seek counsel. There is someone who has been there before, someone who can walk you through what to expect and how to make it to the end safely.
Find that person. They are always more than willing to help.
Also, in this analogy, the professional is actually God. So if you can’t find someone to speak to about your mission, talk to God; seek His guidance and read His word.
Now it becomes real.
Heading to the airplane is exciting – because you know you’re not going to come down the same way you go up.
You understand that you are about to embark on something that many deem “crazy,” but you still, for some reason, feel the need to complete what you’ve started in your mind – your ultimate goal is simply to get back to the ground, but you know when you do, you will somehow be different.
So you board the plane.
So, in life, you have been in preparation for your journey, whatever your journey may be. This is the step where that journey goes from being only a mental thing to actually beginning.
While on the plane, there’s not much really happening physically, but mentally, this is where a rush of extreme excitement and anxiety and happiness and fear and more excitement and wonder rush through your entire body all at the same time.
Of course, you try to play it cool.
It’s a time where you can relax … if you could! But you’re about to jump out of an airplane, so you’re not relaxed, how could you possible relax at a time like this?!
The plane ascends.
At a certain point (we were jumping at 10,000 ft.), the professionals look down at their altimeter to determine how high we are and begin to physically prepare for the jump. They get uncomfortably close and strap your body harness onto theirs and tighten it to ensure your safety.
I feel like the professional skydiver represents God. He knows when the right time to leap is and He will do everything He can to ensure that you will be safe. There may be times when things get tight and a little uncomfortable, but it’s all for your own safety. You simply have to trust that He knows what he’s doing and He won’t let you down.
THE FIRST STEP
The pro told me to scoot forward, toward the open door as we neared the jump altitude (this was the most exhilarating part for me). I looked out the open door, into the clouds and sky ahead and the earth way below as I followed his directions.
He pointed to a small step – the one we used to step onto the plane – and told me to place my feet on that step. I did. My feet felt like they engulfed that tiny piece of metal, so that all I saw was my feet followed by the earth 10,000 ft below. The image is forever etched in my mind.
That’s the realest moment. The moment you’re halfway out the door and you realize there’s no ground to jump onto … just air.
It’s really the perfect metaphor. You’ve decided to take a step of faith and do something you know people may not completely understand; or something that seems crazy; yet something you deem necessary to add to the happiness and excitement of your life.
So you step out in faith after hearing what God has to say and after He tells you it’s OK to do so.
Then you hear Him say “OK, are you ready?”
And you say, “What??!!! $#*@ NOOO!!” in your head but because you’ve come this far and you have your foot out the door and you’re assured He’s got you and you’re safe and you made the decision to go through with this, you actually utter the words “Yeah, let’s do this.”
Then you jump.
And no words can truly express the feeling of that leap. It’s not like a rollercoaster’s first drop. It’s not like jumping from a high dive. It’s not like the pinnacle of a trampoline bounce.
The first two seconds are breathtaking. Literally, I couldn’t breathe.
I think it was the flip out of the plane that caused my core to tighten so I couldn’t breathe, but after the initial shock of jumping from an airplane, I took a deep breathe. And as the cold air of 10,000 feet in the sky filled my lungs, I felt like I was flying.
I was flying.
And there was absolutely nothing I could do but enjoy the ride.
Seriously … at the point of dropping/flying, everything is out of your hands. It’s the pro’s job to pull the ‘chute at the right time – all you have to do is remember the instruction you were given earlier and do your best to put your arms and legs in the correct position. But your main objective at this point is to, simply, enjoy the ride.
Once you take that leap, you have to put your complete trust in the guy on your back.
Once you’ve taken that leap of faith in life, you can do nothing but trust that God is going to take care of you.
*This is the concept that changed my life
Once you decide to do something and you know God is with you in your decision, you MUST trust that He will pull the ‘chute in time. You MUST trust that He will protect you and safely guide you to your destination.
When you’re in the air, there is literally nothing you can do aside from completely submit to the will of the pro. But in life, we try to take control after we’ve leaped – and that’s why things go wrong! If I freaked out in the air and started trying to reach back and grab the parachute cord, I would be putting my actual life in severe danger, AND my tandem partner’s life. [In the event someone does start flailing about, I’d imagine the pro would have to knock the person out in order to save both their lives, but I don’t know the protocol there.]
Skydiving taught me that not only do I need to take chances in life, but that I need to completely put my faith and trust in God, and that when He says He’s going to do something, I have to trust Him and completely submit to His will, or else I put myself in danger.
Then, the parachute opened.
The most exhilarating part was over. Now I was just dangling in the sky, looking around at the clouds and the sea and the streets and the homes and land below me.
There was a peace. I had trusted the guy on my back and he pulled the parachute cord and was guiding me to safety.
Once you’ve taken your leap of faith and have trusted God, at some point there comes a peace – the Word calls it a “peace that passes all understanding” – which makes sense because technically you’re still in the sky, but because the parachute has opened, you just know everything is going to be fine. It’s smooth sailing from this point on.
At this point you’re able to relax, but you understand that God is in control. You are safe as long as you are tied to him. He also takes joy in seeing you relax at this point and you are able to talk, laugh and have fun.
See, while you were freefalling, before the parachute was opened, you didn’t have any say – you had to follow instructions in order to be safe and everything was out of your control. You might hear the guy on your back bark an order, but you knew it was for your safety, so you did it, and you did it swiftly.
Now, you’re floating. It’s quiet in the sky, so you’re able to hold some semblance of a conversation if you want to. You might even have the chance to point to a cloud and say, “can we go through that cloud?” And he’ll bring you to a fun detour on your way down. You may do some spins. He may even let you take control of the reins for a short while and let you steer.
God wants us to have fun with our lives. If we are moving into a new season in life, we have to take leaps and fully trust and obey Him. On the way down, He might allow us to dictate a few things that we desire, because He loves us and wants to see us happy.
But in the end, He has to be the one in control so that we arrive at our destination and land safely.
Once I discovered the skydiving method of doing life, I began stepping into worlds I never thought I’d have opportunities to be in. I joined a band. I quit my job. I started a non-profit organization and traveled to Africa – all because I started unabashedly claiming things in life that I desired and listening to God, taking steps of faith and allowing God to take the lead.
That is how skydiving changed my life.
And whether or not you ever go skydiving yourself, I pray that my experience with skydiving – after reading this – has changed your life as well.