17 Dec 2011
Flying Not Falling
I got my law firm together this week for a Christmas party. I didn’t want us all to go out to lunch because I’m not good at holiday lunches, really. They always feel a little forced and awkward to me. This year my law partner and I took everyone tunnel jumping instead. It’s like skydiving, but you’re indoors and jump into a wind tunnel blowing 160 miles per hour. They say it simulates a free fall from 18,000 feet, but to me it feels like sticking your whole body outside the window of an Indy car as it races down one of the straightaways.
Tunnel jumping is a lot like jumping out of a real plane which I’ve done a couple times. The first time was in college. There was a place down by the boarder of Mexico and for $40 you could throw yourself out of an old Cessna on a Saturday. The training consisted of jumping off a pile of boxes – twice. That was it. “Fold into the ground” our twenty year old instructor who was wearing a tie dye shirt, sandals and a ponytail said to us with confidence. I figured there was a good chance that was exactly what would end up happening to us, because without any other training, a half hour later we jumped from a plane using what’s called a “static line.” It’s a piece of rope which is tied to the plane and it pulls the rip cord on your parachute for you.
I don’t think they still use static lines with novice skydivers. Probably because too many people ended up folding into the ground when it didn’t work. When I jumped that first time, I knew I was betting my life on a piece of rope and because of that, I remember experiencing that terrible falling feeling as soon as I left the plane.
The second time I went skydiving was just last year. This time I did a free-fall from 10,000 feet with my sons and another buddy. I assumed some lawyers had been involved since my first jump years earlier, because this time, rather than using static lines to pull the rip cord, now they strap a guy to your back. I asked him if he knew what he was doing and he told me he’d done this thousands of times and he wasn’t scared. It wasn’t just what he said, but the way that he said it that gave me confidence as they connected us together using lots of straps.
We flew up to altitude and moved to the door. I could feel my heart beating in my ears as we counted down from three and then threw ourselves out into space. Because we were so high this time, we rocketed downward through the air for 45 seconds before the parachute opened. I had expected to feel that terrible falling feeling which marked my first try at skydiving. But this time I didn’t feel like I was falling at all. I felt like I was flying. I think I know why.
My first time skydiving, I had no idea what I was doing. I also knew that I was betting my life on a piece of worn rope. The second time I jumped was different. This time, I wasn’t hanging my life by a piece of rope. I was connected to someone who actually knew what they were doing. Someone who had done it before. Someone who wasn’t scared. Someone I could really trust.
I trust God for many of the same reasons I trusted the guy who I was strapped to when I went skydiving the second time. God came as a person, just like me. He experienced life, just like I have and He’s dealt with the things I deal with – thousands of times. It’s not just what He’s said about life, but the way He’s said it that’s given me confidence. Most of all, I’ve felt connected to Him. Not just by rope or so many straps, but by grace and hope and love which hold me even tighter.
When you’re in a wind tunnel it’s not very scary. If something goes wrong, they just shut off the wind and fix it. In life, it’s not as predictable and not as easy to shut down. Each of us has experienced that terrible falling feeling as we’re hurling downwards in a relationship, in business, in school, in life, even in holidays, imagining that we just might fold into the ground. And when we feel that way, we need to remind ourselves that we’re not connected to this life by a piece of rope, but by a person we can trust. And when we do, instead of feeling like we’re falling, we’ll feel like we’re flying.
Question: What makes you feel like you’re flying or falling these days? I’d love to post your comments.