Fly like an eagle

September 14, 2011 | God at work in Us | Number 18
By Amy Dueckman | B.C. Correspondent
Amy Dueckman overcomes her fear and discovers newfound courage through the thrill of skydiving.

On a gorgeous summer afternoon, I willingly tumbled out of an airplane from more than 3,000 metres above the ground, entrusting my life to a piece of nylon, a ripcord and a stranger strapped to my back. It was the boldest, craziest thing I had ever done.

Why would a relatively conservative middle-aged woman like me, someone who is definitely not a risk-taking adventurer, try skydiving?

Some years ago, before the term “bucket list” became popular, I did make a list of things I wanted to do before I die. It included safe things, such as ride in a limousine and go on a cruise. Skydiving was definitely not on the list, but I knew it was on my daughter’s.

Then this last year a new courage began rising in me, a desire to do things I’ve been afraid to do, just for the building of character. The outrageous idea of skydiving crept into my brain. Why not treat my daughter to her dream and show my own mettle at the same time? We would go skydiving together, mother and daughter.

So that is how I found myself perched at the open door of a small airborne Cessna, terrified as I looked down at the patchwork of earth far below me. I heard my tandem instructor say, “Ready, set, go!” and suddenly I was hurtling towards the ground at 190 kilometres an hour. Air rushed at my face and I thrust my arms out. What a thrill! It was like flying!

Once the parachute opened and slowed our descent, I looked down upon the city below me and tried to take in as much as possible of the beautiful view of the sky, mountains and Fraser Valley. It was peaceful and relaxing, not scary at all. The all-too-short ride ended with a smooth landing. Family and friends who had gathered to watch us cheered. I cheered inwardly, too, proud of myself for overcoming my fear and doing something that only 1 percent of people ever do.

I have mentally relived the experience many times since, wishing I could do it all over again.

In many ways it was a spiritual experience and a metaphor for life. Life, I have decided, is something like skydiving, filled with both fear and joy. It passes all too rapidly, like the wind rushing past my speeding and falling body. There is so much to see and experience, but I cannot do or see everything around me. I may wish I could do it all again, but one ride through life is all I get. Our time on earth is short. “Remember how fleeting is my life” (Psalm 89:47a, NIV).

Recently I received a diagnosis of a life-changing health condition, serious but treatable. Life has turned on a dime. Priorities and perspectives change. The future is an unknown. Things I’ve always heard about God seeming closer at such a time become less clichéd and more real.

The Bible talks a lot about courage and faith. God does not want us to be fearful people. Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’ ” I am reminded now more than ever that I must rely on God completely. Did I not entrust my safety—my very life—to that of the tandem jump instructor harnessed to me? How much more trustworthy is God!

Skydiving is not for everyone, of course, but it has affected and changed me. I discovered something about myself, that I have more courage than I thought, that I need not be fearful of things I once feared. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31).

Skydiving is the closest I will ever come to soaring like an eagle. And if I can face jumping out of a plane, I feel I can face anything.

Amy Dueckman overcomes her fear and discovers newfound courage through the thrill of skydiving.

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