Free Fallin’

There are certain things in life that my mind and body just flat out tell me not to do. When I was in elementary school, eating broccoli was the one thing that defied all my logic. In highschool, doing my homework made no sense at all in my head. However, this next one is not subject to a period of time. My body is pretty much always telling me that when I’m on a plane, I should stay seated and buckled up, or at the very least, wait until it lands before I get off.

This summer I was blessed with the opportunity to board a plane, wait until we got really high in the air, and then jump out. Some of you beat-around-the-bushers may call it “sky diving”. I guess I’m okay with that title as long as I don’t end up going cement diving. Although I was scared out of my mind, I’ll admit it was an absolute blast. It was well worth the exhilaration and being able to look up in the sky and say, “Hey, I’ve been there.” However, the real reason this experience is worth remembering is because of the impact it left on my heart.

The day started off with a training video where this lawyer came on and told us no matter what happened, we couldn’t sue the company. He explained how all of the liability was ours, none of the responsiblity was theirs, but they did have a service crew who was willing to come out and scrape our guts off the landing pad in a worst case scenario. “Oh great”, I thought, “one less thing to worry about.”

Next we moved into the dressing room and I got suited up. I met the instructor who would be diving with me, and I was relieved to know he had done this over 1,500 times. He walked me through how my suit worked, how to pull the parachute chord, and how to resolve conflicts while in the air. For example, the proper flying…or falling position is belly to the earth, knees bent with your feet kicking your butt, and both arms making an “L” shape with your hands up even with your head. He said if I needed to scratch my nose, I should use both hands at the same time, because if my body wasn’t symmetrical we would go into a hyper-speed tailspin. I told him I’m falling from 15,000 feet, so I’d probably just let it itch. We also discussed how I could communicate with him if something didn’t feel right and we both, working together, could fix it. It was important to remember that communicating with him was urgent and necessary. After my helmet was strapped on securely and my goggles were fastened, we were ready for take off.

Fast forward a few minutes, we’re flying at about 15,000 feet and I’m thinking about how they really should offer peanuts and soda. Anything to get my mind off of the fact that I’m about to leave the plane with an airport nowhere in sight. A few of my friends were before me in line, but my time was coming. We finally scoot to the open door, and he tells me to put my toes at the very edge. He says, “Okay dude! We’re gonna rock back and forth and jump on 3!” Here’s where he and I didnt quite see eye to eye. I was thinking he was going to count every full rock. Turns out, he says 1 when you rock forward, 2 when you rock back, and on the second rock forward you get tossed out of the plane like the Sunday paper. So there I was, falling at about 200 mph. To say I was screaming would be the understatement of the year. We’re getting closer and closer to the first layer of white fluffiness. At first, I’m thinking, man we’re gonna hit those things, look out! But before I knew it, my fears were gone and I was gently misted with water, leaving a huge Dom-print in the clouds. At about 5,000 feet, with no warning, he pulls the parachute chord and we’ve stopped falling. So now I’m in a standing position, feet dangling, not going anywhere. This was way scarier than falling. He guides me through the next layer of clouds, slowly meandering through, which was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. He handed me the reigns and let me steer us through the clouds and down towards the landing pad. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Man, don’t I have the best job in the world?”

We finally get to the ground and when we come to a stop, he dragged me back up to a standing position, grabbed my shoulders, and kissed me on the back. Yeah, you read that right. When something like that happens, you’re sometimes too stunned to react. I wasn’t sure what it was all about, but when I turned around he said, “We made it, buddy. You and me.”

That day I began reflecting on what I had just experienced. In a very literal way, I took a leap of faith. I was terrified, but I trusted my guide. For me, this described God our Father a little bit. He told me about certain things that would harm me. He informed me of the right way to do it. He also said if I messed up, I could go to him, and he could fix it, but he would need my cooperation. Life is an adventure and a challenge, but with God, all things are possible. It’s the simplicity of that message that I like so much. I imagine God looking forward with great excitement to us waking up every day, because He loves being our Father and He wants to guide us through our days. I imagine God thinks He has the best job in the whole world. I find it to be a great comfort that as long as I stick close to the Lord, communicate with Him, and run back to Him when I stray, I will have nothing to fear. I desire to live in His love, to encounter Him in the Sacraments, encounter Him in everyone I meet, and trust in Him always. I look forward to the day when I finally reach my landing pad and the Lord can embrace me and say “We made it, buddy. You and me.”

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