Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The tiny plane rose higher and higher into the sky. I hunched over on the floor, sandwiched between the pilot and small door. My instructor, Dennis, sat in front of me. Only the pilot had a seat. Too late to go back now.

I pressed a finger to my carotid artery. My heart pumped stronger, but no faster, than usual. I fought the urge to fiddle with the chest straps on my harness. Are these tight enough? I looked at the pack on Dennis’ back. I check my altitude bracelet. The needle danced at 9,000 feet.

Dennis turned around. He joined our harnesses so that my back touched his chest. He checked a bunch of clasps I couldn’t identify. His right hand extended over my shoulder and gave me goggles. “Are you ready to jump out of a fully functioning airplane?”

I’m not sure if I nodded or said yes. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a ‘No’.

He twisted the handle, and the plane door popped open. At that height, there’s almost no way to conceive how fast you’re going. I remembered the instructions he gave me on the ground. He’ll put his right foot onto the step. My right foot goes outside his. Then I’ll move my left foot onto the step. He’ll pull back on my head and count into my ear. Then we’ll jump. While in freefall, I only need to let my arms and legs relax. He’ll do the rest.

I moved closer to the doorway. Something in my body railed against this. In that moment, I knew I should be afraid of falling. I laughed in my head. That’s why I’m here! And the fear was gone. I looked down and saw his right foot on the step. I guided my foot to the place it should be. Or I tried. The wind was so strong that it blows my whole leg around like a flag. I don’t remember how my left foot ended up outside of the plane. Neither of them ever touched the step.

Dennis spoke and counted. Then we fell, twisted and flipped in the air. My body was not relaxed and concave. I had pulled a ‘Superman’; my legs and arms were stiffer than a sheet of plywood. I felt his ankles wrap around mine and yank them back. We steadied out. His hands gripped my biceps and cracked them into the proper position. I felt something snap on my left shoulder. My arm had come out of socket and he pushed it back in.

The rest of the flight was smooth. At 6,000 feet, I pulled my own parachute. We landed to the cheers of friends. It wasn’t like the drop on a rollercoaster, but it was definitely fun.

My right foot reminds me of when God asks something of us and we obey without commitment. On the ground, Dennis said “I have a vested interest in your safety. We’re strapped together with one parachute. I want to live. You’re going to be fine.” It put my mind at ease. I knew I didn’t really have to try very hard. Dennis would fix it. When we obey God’s original call to action but do not follow it through with the actions He requires of us, we’re bound to get hurt. It is important to put your right foot onto the step, but a lack of commitment will have you in an uncontrolled freefall and your endeavor will not bear fruit.

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