Seven Lessons From Skydiving
By Brad Ransom
In June 2015, I fulfilled a bucket-list dream and went skydiving.
I don’t know that I would
consider myself an adrenaline junkie, but I’ve always had the dream of skydiving. I am the father of three boys, and my oldest son has always wanted to skydive too. My two younger sons share their mother’s opinion: “Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane?”
During a visit to my oldest son’s house in Nebraska this past summer,
his wife found a “deal” on skydiving,
and we scheduled our once-in-a-lifetime experience. The day was absolutely perfect, with clear blue skies, no wind, and warm temperatures. We had an amazing time, and I learned some valuable lessons that, ironically, have great
First, many things in life don’t happen according to our timing. My oldest son Brad and I have planned to go skydiving since his 18th birthday, but due to circumstances, it didn’t happen until just a few months ago…in his 30s. About a year ago, while Brad was visiting us in Nashville, we decided to “go for it” and scheduled a jump at a skydiving school an hour away. On the day before the jump, the skydiving school called to let me know their airplane had mechanical problems. Once again, our skydiving dream was put on hold. We were disappointed, but it was out of our control. Even though we scheduled the jump and made all the plans, things didn’t work out the way we expected.
Spiritually speaking, we must remember that our timing isn’t always God’s timing. We make all kinds of plans, but things aren’t always under our control. God sees the big picture, and His plans are greater than our plans (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Don’t get me wrong; planning ahead is great. I believe we should plan and be responsible stewards, but we also need to remember things don’t always work out according to our plans, and God usually has a good reason when they don’t.
Second, I learned fear can keep us from doing really great things. Our wives and my other sons all declined to jump with us. I think they missed a lot of fun. I realize not everyone has the desire to skydive, and that’s fine. My point is that sometimes fear keeps us from doing things we need to do. God may have great plans for us, but if we are unwilling to leave our comfort zone because we are afraid, we may never experience all God has for us. Often, we fear the unknown, how people will react, or countless other excuses. Don’t let fear stand in the way of experiencing the great things God has for you.
Third lesson learned: when the pressure is on, you can do more than you think. Many people have asked, “Wasn’t it scary when you were about to jump out of an airplane at 12,000 feet?” To tell you the truth, I made up my mind long before I got to the door of the plane. At that moment, I felt more anticipation and excitement than fear.
What is the spiritual application? We all reach points in our lives when we simply have to let go and let it happen. Ultimately, God is in control of our lives. Why go “kicking and screaming” when we can let go and let God lead?
Fourth, I learned that sometimes you have to put total trust in someone else. My skydiving experience was a tandem jump. This simply means I had an experienced skydiver strapped to my back to navigate the jump, pull the ripcord, and execute the landing. I didn’t know this guy. I’d never met him before we were strapped together in our harnesses. I only knew he had a wooly beard, and he had done this hundreds of times. Obviously, he was still alive...a great thing for a jump partner!
We received surprisingly few instructions before we boarded the small plane. They told us not to hold on to the airplane door, to keep our heads up and our legs bent backward. The training lasted about 15 seconds. The best option for success in this experience was to trust the guy with the big beard…and the knowledge and experience.
I’m sure you already see the spiritual parallel. God wants us to trust Him completely. He doesn’t always give us the details beforehand. He shares what we need to know and asks us to trust Him with the rest. It’s great advice, whether it comes from a burly, bearded skydiver or God.
Fifth, I learned the ride can be sickening. After the parachute was deployed, the instructor gave me the steering controls and told me to pull down on the right one. I did, and we glided right. Then, he told me to let up on the right side and pull the left one. I did, and we gently glided left. When he yelled in my ear, “Pull harder,” I did. Obviously, I didn’t pull hard enough, because he reached up and yanked the left cord. We immediately went into a hard left spin. My stomach tightened, and I became incredibly dizzy. Just when I thought I might lose my lunch, he released the cord, and we returned to a pleasurable glide with an incredible view.
I didn’t enjoy the sickening part of the experience. I could have done without that tight left spin. It is a good reminder. We have many experiences in life that aren’t fun—things we would rather not face again, things that are difficult. Often, these experiences are necessary for us to become the person we need to be.
Sixth, I learned that most of the ride is amazing! I’ve flown many times, and the view from an airplane window is remarkable. But let me tell you, it doesn’t compare to the unobstructed view when flying through the air with nothing under you but wind! The brief, sickening moment was well worth the whole experience.
We all face challenges in life, but God is faithful, and He will never leave you. Sure, we experience trials and hard times, but in the big picture, any discomfort in this life is minor when compared to the amazing things God has in store for our future.
The last lesson I learned from skydiving is that the landing isn’t so bad…once you get over the fear of breaking your legs. This may sound strange, but one of my biggest fears about skydiving was breaking my legs on the landing. I had seen videos of skydivers landing, and it looked rough. I received no instruction about the landing until the moment before we hit the ground. As we sailed in for the landing, the instructor suddenly yelled in my ear, “Lift your knees to your chin!” I did, and he landed in a run. I slid along on my backside until he unbuckled our tether, and before I realized it, the jump was over, except for memories. In short, the landing was no big deal.
Many times, we chicken out of doing things because we’re “afraid of the landing.” If we just go ahead and jump, trusting God with the outcome, things work out for our good. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
Skydiving may not be for everyone, but the lessons I learned during the adventure of a lifetime were pretty relevant to everyday life. For those who have always wanted to do something crazy—like jump out of a perfectly good airplane—I suggest going for it. Just don’t hold me liable if your outcome is different than mine.
About the writer: Brad Ransom is director of church planting for FWB North American Ministries: www.fwbnam.com.