Just Jump

skydiving“Are my straps on tight enough?”

“Yes, they’re fine,” Robby answers calmly, not seeming to really check.  “The important thing to remember is just relax.”

“And what do I do with my hands?  Do I leave them out or fold them across my chest?”

“Either way is fine.  The important thing to remember is just relax.”

Easy for him to say.  For my bored skydiving instructor this is just another day at the office.  For me this is my first time to jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet.  I’m looking through the oval window of this small rumbling plane, and the ground looks very, very, very far away.   And these straps don’t feel tight enough.  Is it possible to slip out of this harness and plunge to my death?

I didn’t get much from Robby in the form of proper skydiving technique, although I did sign plenty of waivers before my tandem dive.  The one thing he kept telling me besides relax is to not grab on to the side of the door when it’s time to jump.  Just jump.

This is a fun day splurge for my son and I for his 18th birthday.  We were joking about the experience down on the ground but now up here my feeling is one more of abject terror.

Seasoned instructors are strapped to their inexperienced divers, straddling two long benches inside the plane.  We get the signal that we are at 10,000 feet.  Their advertising promised between 8,000 and 14,000 feet and 20 seconds of straight free fall before the instructors pull the cord.  By now I am thinking I would have gladly paid for lower altitude and less drop.

Robby and I awkwardly scoot forward together.  He’s going to be riding piggy back all the way down and doing all the important stuff like pulling the cord of the parachute and making sure we land right side up.  I’ll do my part to pray we don’t die.

My son goes first.  Out the door with his instructor in a nanosecond.  Poof, he’s gone.  I can’t even catch a glimpse of him on his free fall down.

One more diver then it’s my turn.  “Just relax,” Robby says one last time. 

This is it.  This is the moment.  We are right at the door now, looking down at terra firma so far below.

Wait a minute.  This is not the moment.  This is a horrible mistake.  Airplanes were not made to jump out of.  I instinctively grab the sides of the door.

“Let go,” Robbie screams in my hear. “Let go.”

No turning back now.  I unclasp my hands from the sides of the door and we drop like two rocks tied together.

The plunge.  20 seconds of sheer…what is this…I thought this would be awful but it’s kind of invigorating.  Fun even.  Flying through the air like superman.

He pulls the chute and we slow down, gliding to the landing spot together.  I’m immensely enjoying the beautiful scenery.  I can’t wait to get back to the ground and share the experience with Caleb.  Exhilarating.  That was a blast.

The once-in-a-lifetime experience for me had spiritual analogy written all over it.            

Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat and walk on the water toward Him.  The story is so important it is recorded three times in the Gospels:  Matthew 14, Mark 6 and John 6.  The Lord didn’t give Peter much in the way of instructions or waivers to sign.  

“Come,” He said. 

We give Peter a hard time for losing concentration and sinking so fast.  But hey, at least he tried.  For those brief nanoseconds a human being actually walked on water.

When Jesus saw what happened He said, “You of little faith.  Why did you doubt?”

I don’t imagine Jesus saying that with disdain in his voice, like Peter, you’re such a loser.  But more like, Peter, you have a little faith.  Not bad.  Now keep your eye on Me and you won’t sink next time.

Keep listening to your Instructor say relax.  Or in olden language, peace be unto you.  And don’t grab on to the sides of the door.

Just jump and enjoy.


— Mike O’Quin, author of Java Wake and Growing Desperate