I was at a youth conference recently and we had this required evening fellowship to attend. I had been forewarned it involved an element of skydiving and I certainly was not looking forward to it. In my mind why would someone jump out of a perfectly operational airplane in the first place? So we go to this indoor wind-tunnel facility and we have to sign a waiver basically releasing the organization from any deaths that could occur while getting thrown around in a wind tunnel with speeds as high as hurricanes (you can see how much of a fan I was). After the “life-signaway-waiver” we were taken into a training room and instructed on hand symbols and how basically our hands, feet and head are all rudders and that any slight movement on any of our appendages would cause you to spin or dip or ascend. The whole time the instructor is speaking you can hear the wind turbines above us whir and roar as others were getting tossed into the air.
Finally it was our turn to enter the hurricane. If I told you there wasn’t an army of butterflies in the pit of my stomach I would be lying to you – I was as nervous as I could be. I don’t do well with roller coasters, let alone the sensation of plummeting out of an airplane and falling to earth (thanks gravity!). I watch as others in our party fly with the help of the instructor, even my wife seems to fly with ease and she floats and somewhat flies assisted by the fly instructor. Then it is my dreaded turn…and on shaky legs I force myself through the entrance to the wind tunnel with a whispered prayer and a sentence that may have gone like this, “Lord if it’s my time to die, at least don’t let me make a fool out of myself!” Oh, the Lord has a great sense of humor, because make a fool out of myself is exactly what I did.
I followed the instructors directions. I got into “fly” formation with my legs at a near 90 degree angle and my arms slightly outstretched and I thought I was doing well except the instructor was working hard to keep me in the air. I thought I understood the position I needed to be in in order to fly, but try as I might I couldn’t sustain lift off. Eventually I got the dreaded “shut off the turbines” command by the instructor to the operator, and I was “grounded” and told with hand gestures to “relax”. The funny thing was I thought I WAS relaxed. I thought I had maintained the correct posture in order to sustain flight…and yet here I was with the instructor’s arms around me to keep me steady, but I was grounded and not even in the air anymore. Meanwhile, all of the other “flyers” managed to lift off and fly.
After our group completed its time in the wind tunnel, the instructor demonstrated to us what could be accomplished in that the hurricane tube. He soared, he dove, he spiraled and performed many amazing feats that we now knew were extremely difficult to do, but he performed them with the greatest of ease. Meanwhile, we noobies to the wind tunnel flight could barely gain lift off (and myself not even having accomplished lift off at all).
The instructor’s flight looked so graceful and easy, but we knew it was far from easy. We were all sore from the positions and movements, and to witness the instructor’s ease while in the hurricane tube made it all the more impressive.
You see, very similarly, in life the spiritual life can be a lot like that. When we were first starting out in the faith we would look at more mature “veteran” Christians and admire how firm they were in their relationship to Christ. They seemingly soared while we could barely achieve lift off at all. Perhaps some of us became frustrated or considered giving up altogether because the task seemed so daunting and insurmountable. But the interesting thing is the veteran Christian, the one with all the growth, soaring and maturity actually is there to help you take flight.
When I was in that wind tunnel that amazing flier of an instructor had his arms wrapped around me so that I wouldn’t get hurt. If he would have let go I would have been smashed against one of the walls or perhaps tossed into the air to hit the ceiling high above us. The mature, high flying instructor knew the dangers and the adversity of that hurricane tube and was preventing me from getting hurt.
I owe a number of fellow Christ-followers, who are more mature than I, a debt of thanks for their leadership in my life. These legends of the faith showed me how to walk (and soar) by faith. They also came along side me when I was still learning how to actually walk with Christ. They understood the trappings and the adversity I would face because they had journeyed the same path only many years prior.
2 Things To Consider:
1) Are we pliable to the instruction of mentors? These mentors and mature Christians know almost every trapping and danger along the way. They have walked this path before us, and they have an intimate knowledge of what it takes to soar. How flexible are we to the guidance of others? Or does pride well up and prevent us from acknowledging our immobility and shortcomings? The instruction and guidance isn’t there to point out all of our fears and failures, it is there to lead us to higher altitudes of faith, growing us closer in relationship to the Father.
2) Are we mentors to others? When we have accomplished flight, how do we convey what we have learned? Are there others who are still grounded and in need of encouragement and guidance? How can we lift them up? How can we offer them love and tangible hope of taking that next leap? We cannon forget how we felt when we were at the beginning of our faith journey. We need to journey beside these young believers and provide to them understanding and the leadership of flight. Never forget where we have come from and how far we have journeyed since then. When we call to mind that path, we are then able to provide that much needed guidance for others.
Are you ready to soar today?
Are there those around you who need help?
God has always journeyed along with us, and He desires a deeper relationship with you and me. Perhaps some of us are afraid of heights, afraid of failing, afraid of looking like a fool with others, afraid of the cost of discipleship and what will need to be sacrificed. God is here reminding us that we were meant to soar and He longs for us to take flight.
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.