MY LEAP OF FAITH
I’ve had many challenges in my life. It is safe to say most of them are ones I neither chose, nor warmly embraced. We all prefer “smooth sailing,” but life is not perfect. Every day, things come up that are not ideal: things I’d rather not have to face. We call these “problems,” but if I’m thinking right, I should call them “challenges.” They come in all sizes, durations, and levels of difficulty. Most are erased with the passage of time, but others can remain etched in our minds for many years. This is life. Everyone has struggles with painful relationships, health crises, or financial pressures. Certain words possess the power to transport us back to fear filled times in our lives. Here are some personal examples for me: “miscarriage;” “Spina Bifida;” “Down Syndrome;” “Our entire church building is under water!” “The house is on fire!”
Did you hear my husband and I recently chose a unique personal challenge? Yes! 10,000 feet in the air, we jumped out of a “perfectly good airplane,” as one friend dubbed it! Out of our comfort zones, and into the clouds! I called it “My Leap of Faith.”
You see, skydiving had been on his “bucket list” for a long time. Because we consider ourselves a team, we like doing things together, if at all possible. This is why I decided to join him! So it was arranged, in honor of our 44th wedding anniversary. On the day appointed, all of our kids and grandkids were on hand to witness the event, even though some in my family weren’t so sure I would actually do it! It was a lovely summer evening with a slight breeze, beautiful sky, and a blazing, golden sun barely starting to go down in the west. Honestly, it was a perfect evening for skydiving!
I am not promoting this as an experience everyone should necessarily do, but I am saying there is value in facing one’s fears, stepping outside your comfort zone and doing what is hard or unpleasant. I decided I would take skydiving on, not only as a physical challenge, but also a spiritual one. As you can imagine, some moments were very frightening!
I admit, in the days leading up to it, I had to work hard to keep my mind “stayed on Thee,” as the Scriptures say. I made the decision and I wanted to follow through. (If I’d had any doubt about my eternity, I never would have done it!) How many times a day did I mentally and audibly quote Isaiah 26:3? I have no idea, but I do know God’s Word is powerful. Why should I allow myself to become a “basket case,” given over to worry, and anxiety? This was my first test. As long as I focused on it, I found Isaiah 26:3 to be more than enough to calm my fears.
Arriving at the venue, watching a short video warning of potential accidents, filling out form after form, waiver after waiver, to lock down the notion that they would never, ever, under absolutely NO circumstances, not in this millennium or the next, become liable, in the event “adverse conditions” occurred, did give me cause for pause! Admittedly, my focus was a bit shaken. Still I did not want to be a quitter or give in to my fear.
After completing a short training session with my instructor, suiting up, taking photos, waving to my kids and grandkids, kissing my husband (We learned we were not going up together, after all), I opted to be first. Climbing into the plane by myself was a bit scary!
Perhaps it was the adrenalin rush I was experiencing, I don’t know. But the next 20 minutes or so were rather surreal. Walking the 30 feet on the tarmac to board a noisy little single engine plane was pretty weird, to say the least. But I had committed to this, and I was determined to do it. Next thing I knew, I was in this crazy little plane, climbing through the clouds, hardly able to hear the pilot or my instructor talking because it was so loud. Somewhere in that mix I remember saying…”Wow! I’m really out of my comfort zone now!” I also remember turning to my instructor and asking, “I’m curious. Have you ever taken your mom on a skydive?” I admit to being mildly comforted when he responded, “Yes, twice.” All this time, I was waiting…and waiting… and eyeing the door. It may sound strange, but I’ve been on lots of planes and have often wondered, “What would it be like if that door opened?” Well, I was about to find out.
Belting us together for the tandem jump, my instructor called out, “Its time!” THEN THE DOOR OPENED! I’m not kidding! I was a mere 2 feet from an open plane door! Extending my leg to stand on the small metal step attached to the outside edge of the door threshold, seemed like a monumental task! My decision had been made, and now I had to act in faith. It took all the grit and determination I could muster, to move.
I was not prepared for the atmospheric pressure and 90 mile an hour wind velocity just outside that plane door! My first sense of this caused me to seriously wonder if I had the physical strength to stand on that step! As my foot reached out, I felt a huge push from behind.
I was in free fall! My leap of faith had begun. Cold, misty air and LOUD plane and wind noise assaulted me. Nothing was familiar. It was confusing and overwhelming. I was in sensory overload.
Those fifty, fearful, free-fall seconds seemed like they lasted forever! I was strapped to my instructor but I could not see or hear him. My mind told me I was somewhere out there all by myself! If I could have managed to think straight in those moments, I would have realized I wasn’t actually alone. The circumstances just made me feel otherwise. What was up, what was down, what I was doing, and where I was going? I had no clue! My very life seemed totally out of my control. I was forced to trust my instructor to know how to bring me to safety!
In the weeks since my skydive I have thought a lot about FEAR. Here are some of my personal observations:
In God’s Word, “the fear of the LORD” is recommended and commanded, but it is very different than the “terror” kind of fear we normally think of. (The fear of the Lord is a deep, reverential respect and awe that causes us to “tread lightly” in His presence, and listen carefully when He speaks to us!) Beyond this, there are healthy fears and unhealthy ones. Healthy fears could be things like self-preservation instincts or reactions to sudden threats. An appropriate fear of the Lord, exercised as God intended, brings us closer to our Creator, focusing on Him and developing a stronger desire to please, honor, and worship Him. This desire results in faith, which is the opposite of fear. Heb 11:6 says, “But without faith, it is impossible to please Him…”
In contrast is terror of death or divine condemnation, resulting from sin. Dreading divine wrath, we develop the innate sense that we do not measure up, that something is wrong with us. (When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they were afraid and tried to “hide” from God- Gen. 3:8-10). It makes all the difference where the fear is focused. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” according to Prov. 9:10. One famous preacher called the fear of the Lord, “respect, on its knees…”
Where does bad fear- that cringing dread and terror that paralyzes a child of God- come from? According to God’s Word, it comes from Satan. “God hath not given us (His children) the Spirit of fear…” 2 Timothy 1:7. Fear, gone wrong, results in a lack of love and a sense of alarm, instability, and insecurity. If we live in fear, we are not thinking right. Fear is our spiritual enemy’s tool to conquer and destroy. Fear is part of being human; it comes from our sin nature. Every person experiences it. Fear destroys confidence. Fear is destabilizing. Some people live with fear as their constant companion; as odd as it sounds, fear IS their comfort zone. Wise people seek to control it (with the Sword of the Spirit) so it won’t control them.
FEAR, like alcoholism, is NOT a disease. It is a CHOICE that can develop into a habit! Some people become practiced at their fears, encouraging them to escalate and grow into panic attacks and other debilitating choices. God knows how our brains are wired. If we do something enough times, it becomes ingrained. Phil 4:6-8 explains the remedy. We were created to exercise our free will to obey God, and avoid fear-induced hang ups. When fears come, right choices must be made!
Faith is the only anecdote to fear. Faith conquers fear, and faith must be constantly exercised in battle against this, one of Satan’s most effective “devices.” 2 Cor. 2:11 states that Satan desires to get an advantage over the saints, but that we “are not ignorant of his devices.”
1 Cor. 10:13 teaches us that all our temptations are “common to man,” but that God is faithful, and He has provided a way to escape these, if we will take that “escape route.” For fear, the potential to escape comes right when the fear comes. What do you DO with it? Do you focus on it? Do you feel sorry for yourself because you have it? Women need to understand we are reinforcing our fear when we mull it over in our minds, or constantly talk about it. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” the Bible says. We should “flee” those temptations; not embrace and coddle them. And we should be “casting down imaginations,” that exalt themselves against truth (2 Cor. 10:5), rather than giving credence to every thought that enters our head!
May we learn to admit our fears, let go and surrender them to the Lord. It is sin for God’s children to live in a continual state of anxiety and fear.
Looking back on my skydive, I see many parallels that relate to life. This “out-of-my-comfort-zone experience” wasn’t the first time I’ve ever felt helpless and alone; not the first time I’ve been confused, overwhelmed or literally engulfed in abject fear, either! Whether I understood everything in those moments or not, like our instructor, my Heavenly Father was there all the time, guiding me along. He is always in control. If your life ever seems to be in “free fall,” remember this: He knows all about it; surrender and obedience to Him are always the key.
I’ve saved the best part until last! When that parachute opened and those challenging, fear-filled, fifty seconds ended, IT WAS AMAZING! By then we were out of the clouds. No more cold, misty air, and wind noise! The confusion was gone! It was quiet and serene. The parachute opened and righted our direction, stabilized our descent, and gave us a clear view of the world below.
I was in awe! I remember saying things like “Wow!” “This is so amazing!” “I could stay up here all day!” To say I loved it and hated to see it end is an understatement. In those moments, I realized a profound truth: On the other side of fear is where I find peace and calm…and a safe landing.