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It feels so good to dive out the door of a Twin Otter and then find my wife in the sky and fly over to her. Her smile speaks a thousand words when we lock hands in the air. I love the feeling when a jump goes well and everything clicks. It’s so fun to laugh, talk, and debrief our day in the afterglow as we share a frosty at Wendy’s.
Whenever we fill our hearts with adventure, that spirit becomes very apparent to everyone around us. You can see it on our faces, hear it in our voices, and feel it by our love.
God made it very clear in the scriptures that to find real life you will have to take real risks. Only once we relinquish control, and let God run His own universe, do we ever find the life that He wants for us. His invitation is always into the dangerous unknown. Think of your favorite Bible stories, were any of them invitations to live a safe comfortable life?
Our hearts are made for adventure and so we all crave it like food and water. Ann and I consider skydiving a casual adventure. They are not the purpose of our life but they help orient us to life that God wants us to live. They help us practice a life of faith, a life of danger, and a life of reckless abandonment. These concepts are all obvious principles from scripture. And while most people think it strange that I call jumping out of planes a casual adventure, it has nothing on the crucial adventure of my life right now: the Stork Project (More info here). It is the casual adventures that keep me moving forward; they remind me that I am supposed to feel exposed on the edge. It was David’s casual adventure of visiting his brothers that put him in the place he needed to be for his crucial adventure of taking down Goliath. It was out on the range, where he killed a lion and bear, that he learned that God would help him in the time of battle. The biggest difference between casual and crucial is whether I am asking the question, “Do I have what it takes?” or the question, “Does God have what it takes?”
When we enter into the adventure we feel the weight of ourselves against God’s world. When I’m skydiving I experience the incredible smallness to my greatness, for I am at the mercy of a power much much greater than I.
Last week Ann and I were on a typical casual sky diving adventure. Ann and I left the plane as we had done so many times previously. We had jumped out with ten of our friends all trying to make a large star in the air. Ann’s descent was a casual adventure that left her about 1/2 mile away from the airport. My adventure was slightly more crucial.
I had a parachute malfunction. After we finished the dive flow I tracked across the sky away from everyone and threw out my chute at 3,500 feet above the earth and looked up to see a tangled orange and yellow mess. I tried to manage it and get it open for 1,500 feet (which took ten seconds) but the half-opened chute sent me into a fierce spiral, in which my body was parallel to the earth and the centripetal force was dizzying my brain. I had no choice but to cut the chute away with a prayer, then pull the reserve. However, to my horror I looked up to see serious line twists again in my reserve! If I had a third chute, I would have cut away and deployed again; unfortunately, I didn’t and the ground was coming at me fast. I was out of time. These twists must have come since I cut away while spinning at 90 miles per hour. It took me another 1000 feet of fighting the lines to finally get a beautiful white rectangle above my head. I had less than 1,000 feet when I finally had a steerable stable parachute. Some of the girls who are regular skydivers told me that they had tears in their eyes as they watched me fight my reserve in the air. It was scary.
Thankfully, I landed without major injury. Ann had landed a half mile away and was being chased by cows in a pasture or she would have had to witness my debacle. Parachute malfunctions are rare. There are people who have been in the sport for ten years without a malfunction. Why did I get two?
I can’t say I liked fighting for my life. Not one bit. But was it worth it? Of course. Did it make me rethink the sport…Oh yea!
Skydiving has brought Ann and I closer and has deepened our love and trust for one another. We check each other’s gear in the plane and go out the door at the same time. I love kissing her while flying. I love the time we get together in the hangar. This experience has made me think a lot about my future, my mortality, and what really matters. It helped me to realize how short my life really is. I can die anytime. I told this story to one of my Band of Brothers and he said, “Love counts so much more when you face death.” This is so true. Last night Ann and I made the best love. It was so good that we decided to spend another day just decompressing and talking about the meaning of our lives.
Our lives will vanish away in a moment if we let them. Ann and I will continue to seek the adventures both casual and crucial that God has in store for us. Please pray for our safety.