It’s been an intense few days. I’ve jumped out of a plane (not the one on which I ate my love hearts for breakfast !) and fallen through the air at 140 mph; I’ve had to face more painful choices; my lost ring has been found and all of that in the midst of ongoing life with children, work, ageing parents, house repairs – you know what that looks like.
I arranged to do the sky dive several months ago. It was a declaration to myself and anyone else that ‘this is me’. I love risks and adventure and excitement. Last year I started to recognise who I am and what that self needs. I can now confirm that sky diving satisfies a need pretty well!
I woke excited on the morning of the dive – my children raised their eyebrows and shook their heads in despair as I jumped up and down shouting “I’m going to fall out of a plane today”. Yes, this is your mother. I had no nerves at all, and the instructor I was paired with was delighted to have a ‘jumper’ who was up for as much exhilaration as he could provide. In the seconds before we fell out of the plane I had a thought of – ‘wow I’m actually about to fall into nothing’, but it was fleeting. I had total trust in the person I was strapped to. I’d seen lots of people jump very successfully so why wouldn’t I trust him?
The moment when we tumbled out of the plane was crazy . I think we were pitched head first initially and then we flattened out. I am smiling at the memory. It was extraordinary. Falling towards the ground at 140mph.
I had a moment where I thought I should be frightened, I should be concerned that I might come unclipped from him or that the parachute might fail, but those thoughts were pushed aside almost immediately by my delight at the surreal and extraordinary experience I was having. I was smiling. I took everything in. I had no trouble breathing, which I had been warned about. When my legs straightened instead of being bent, my instructor used his legs to guide me back onto the right place and his legs held me there, and I was reminded of what I should be doing.
The parachute opened and we were pulled upwards. Then it was quiet and beautiful. He pointed out a Roman fort below. He let me take the controls and I did a bit of turning. He spun us a bit, which made me feel really sick so I was glad that it stopped. We stayed in the air longer than any others from our plane, even though we hadn’t been the last to jump. His watch beeped to tell him that even though he was having so much fun he had to come down. We lost some altitude quickly to do that. We had a beautiful time. I enjoyed the views and the company and I felt utterly safe. Our landing was so gentle. Then I was lying on top of him on the grass. We got up and hugged and smiled and had our photos taken together.
And then I looked for my husband. Despite sky diving never being on his list of things to do he had decided to do it with me. He knew I would love it and he wanted to experience all of it with me. The sky dive was much more than an adrenaline experience – it was symbolic and full of meaning. I love you. I want to be with you. I put you ahead of myself.
I was hoping that it would be something we would find equally amazing, and it would create a new and rather perfect bond.
I couldn’t see him as I landed. After I was unclipped I went looking for him. He was in the grass – he’d thrown up violently on the way down. All over himself and his instructor. It wasn’t the glorious reunion on the ground it was supposed to be. He was wiping his mouth with grass and trying to get cleaned up. There were some jokes being made and it was clear that his pride was pretty dented. He felt really unwell for the rest of the day.
It’s a few days on and I’m still processing the experience. I would jump again any time I had the chance. I love new experiences. They make me feel alive. A spark of the creator.
And what of the relational impact of it?
It wasn’t what I thought it would be. It was a shared experience – the fact that one of us loved all of it, and the other had a more difficult time doesn’t change that we did it together. That my husband demonstrated how much he loves me. That I stepped up and said ‘hey I am going to do this, because raising money for charity through jumping out of a plane seems like the perfect way to do life’, and in being myself freely, I enabled him to take a risk and try out something new and pretty darned impressive. And between us we raised a huge amount for a fantastic organisation.
No. Post sky-dive euphoria didn’t bind us together.
and maybe that’s ok.
It was still a win.
And when I think of my illogical fearlessness as I tumbled headfirst 10,000 feet above the ground I can’t help but think of who I’m strapped on to daily.
Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, the Divine, whatever language you wish to use, father, mother, brother, saviour. If I am able to exercise trust so great that I can put my life in a stranger’s hands, and still enjoy the experience then I can put my total trust in God.
My life has been in free fall for some months. Sometimes it seems as if the parachute opens and I move into a little bit of quiet but then it goes again and once again I’m falling. Falling from a plane is not how I expected it to be, and neither is free falling through the norms, conventions, commitments, broken covenants, acceptable christian behaviour and unexpected life circumstances of the past 14 months.
In the sky dive I was protected and kept safe, safe enough to enjoy the ride, by the knowledge, wisdom and ability of another. If I really surrender control of my life to God; If i am strapped on without the ability so much as to sit up without him being part of that movement, then I can trust that I will be protected, kept safe and I might even enjoy the ride.
I need this reminder.
Unclipping is not big and it’s not clever.
I need to leave those clips alone. I’d be a fool to do otherwise.
Free fall is safe if you’re strapped to the right person.