Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Faith After the Fall

Perhaps my most unexpected and unequivocally “adventurous” adventure has been a skydiving experience not soon to be forgotten.

I acknowledge that most of my life is a fairly quiet one.  There is not much in my quotidian affairs that recommends me for public notice.  I like to read.  I am learning to crochet.  I eat tofu.  You can see why no major television company was riveted to a reality tv program featuring me.  As I waited on the phone to fix the mess-up on my booking to go skydiving – more on this in a moment – I was told by the on-hold marketing that this company was there for the “busy thrill-seekers.”  I thought for sure I had been placed in the wrong compartment.  Thrill seeker!?!  I think my idea of thrilling is when the third book in a trilogy I started two years ago finally comes out at the bookstore.

As it happens, the tickets were booked through an agency that caters to the whims of the brave, or insane.  They have all kinds of things.  Except for honest and respectable business practices.  Too boring, apparently.  I will not go into tedious details.  A word to the adventurous—when beginning some breath-taking experience like balloon rides or sky dives or bungee jumps, it is preferable to book directly with the company offering this.  You may even be able to negotiate pricing if you are doing a package deal or booking for more than one person.  But if not, avoid Adventure Outdoors/Thrillant/Spot Reservations.  Their Better Business Bureau grades are poor to miserable, which reflects how you will likely feel if you work with them.  Don’t begin your crazy, wild moment with a company that will steal your thunder before you even get there.

That being said, I did, eventually, get there.  I suited up and got inside a ridiculously small propeller plane.  We climbed and climbed, getting nearer to the clouds and farther from the fields and lakes below.  Then it was go-time.  Words fail to fully capture the experience.  As I was on the brink of jumping, my heart was racing.  I had not yet come to terms with my imminent and untraditional exit of the plane.  And then I was out of it.  I don’t think it was fear that I felt as I plummeted at a whopping 120 mph.  It was unbridled surprise.  I think I should have warned my instructor that I am reactionary in exaggerated levels.  I stopped screaming during free-fall – to catch my breath – and resumed screaming in full force until the parachute deployed.  But my mind didn’t stop processing or analyzing at any point.  I was falling, but I trusted my instructor.  I knew he know what to do and that I would be fine.  I felt…. Unencumbered.  Like swimming, except nothing like being in the water.  I was free.  I felt as if I were sustained, which was bizarre considering I was not.  I felt God’s watchful eye on me, in the middle of absolutely nothing.  It was unparalleled.

These are two shots showing the view from up there, while still plummeting.

Once the parachute was out, I felt at peace.  I looked around at this area, unresponsive to the commencement of autumn.  Green fields, azure lakes, clouds, buildings, extended horizons.  It was simply beautiful.

Touch down was blissfully uneventful.  Just a calm step out of the sky, at least for me.  There was a man on the ground, waiting for us, who quickly helped to anchor us and pull in the ‘chute.  Then I was home again, a little different than when I had left it.

Later, as I sat quietly reflecting, my mind made connections between this experience and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  There is still so much I do not know, but my skydiving experience illuminated some things for me.  I recognize that any parable, carried too far, stops being an effective comparison.  Nor can I claim full credit for the following parable, since I believe parts of it germinated in an institute class years ago.  But I do express sincerity in it.

In Spanish, “paracaidas” is a parachute.  Literally, it means stop-falls.  Not long ago, I compared the Savior’s Atonement to a paracaidas in a Sunday School class, because it is undeniably a stop to our fall, a stop the The Fall.  The Fall from the presence of God, when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, and by so doing, initiated this life experience for the rest of us.  There must have been some trepidation for some of us, if not all, as we were launched into this mortality, away from home and away from our Father.  But from the very beginning, before we ever boarded the plane, there was a plan.  We didn’t have to do it alone.  Each of us came equipped with a parachute so that we could return home safely.  Some of us relish the sensation of free-falling, thinking little of how quickly time passes and how little time is left to deploy our parachute.  We flip and turn and spin.  Others are more cautious and quickly extend our arms and legs into the form we were taught.  Still others, perhaps, make no effort at all and tighten into a ball to plummet even faster.  Whatever we do, whatever we choose, we all still have a parachute and have the option to use it.  By the grace of God, we have been granted this gift.  We didn’t have to pack it.  We don’t even have to know how it works to be able to use it.  We can trust in Him that it is there and that it will work.  His grace, and grace alone, makes salvation possible to those who would otherwise die without it.  Yet we must choose to actively apply it.  We must pull the cord and allow His grace to protect us.  Once we do, beautiful vistas are opened to our view.  We can enjoy all the blessing He has prepared for us.  We have liberty to change course instead of simply falling.  And we can arrive safely home, into the arms of those who have been watching over us and waiting for our return.

Like I did that day, we can choose a tandem fall, connecting ourselves to the Savior and relying on His experience to guide and help us, to show us how to apply His Atonement by deploying the parachute.  And just like my experience, some of us will arrive home sooner than others and watch with care and excitement as our loved ones also arrive safely and happily. 

I know that this is not an exact explanation of the Savior’s sacrifice for each one of us.  But I know that it is His grace and mercy that call me home and guide me safely there.  I know that His grace is as freely available to those I love as it is to me, and to all of Heavenly Father’s children.  I am grateful for my agency to choose Him and His Plan and His Son.  I am grateful to that quiet moment when He opened my eyes to see Him near me and feel His love.  I know He uses my experiences to illuminate my mind and broaden my understanding.  I am grateful the Savior is my tandem partner and endures my screams as I learn to open my parachute each day.


  1. That analogy is beautiful. And I"m slightly jealous of your skydiving adventure. :)

    1. I'm so glad you liked it! I think you would totally love skydiving-- it is definitely a rush!