God and the skydiving preacher falling together

Published 9:22 am Saturday, August 25, 2018

“Those who don’t jump will never fly.”
– Leena Ahmad Almashat

by Nathan Decker

Pastor Nathan Decker flies through the air in tandem with Alberto, a professional skydiver. — Submitted

It was the last item on my bucket list. I went skydiving. Well, tandem skydiving, which meant I was attached to a guy who was attached to the parachute. Thank God! I had a blast, but more importantly I had an experience that I have continued to reflect on through the lens of faith. God was with this crazy skydiving preacher.

The first lesson I learned about skydiving was on the ground. Alberto, my instructor and the man I would be connected to on this adventure, told me over and over again the same phrase: “You are not a spectator, you are a student.” Then he told me the things I needed to do and not do. This was more than no shoes, no shirt, no service. I had to have my hands, arms, feet and legs all in certain positions and different times. There were ways that we would communicate while in free fall because at 125 mph we were unable to hear each other. Alberto and I, teacher and student, would have to work together to make it safely to the drop zone.

This made me realize a lot about our faith journey. We are not spectators in salvation.

“God who saves us in spite of us will not save us without us,” Augustine once wrote.

We are called to join the incredible journey that God started before the first day of creation. We are not called to be pew warmers and place holders. We are not a people who have walked down the aisle and received a ticket for a ride to heaven. We have been invited to a journey in which we are participants.  We are not spectators; we are students, disciples, followers of Jesus Christ.

Faith, at the core, is about change. The word ‘repent’ means to ‘change our vision’ or ‘alter the way we see life.’ Experiencing God transforms our whole understanding about life, love, relationships, material possessions, power, and justice. All types of education give us tools with which to do work. Growing in faith equips us for the battles everyone faces with grief, depression, tough decisions, and understanding our role in the big picture of human history. Faith invites us to participate, learn and live a life worth living.

Being a disciple is more than just trust and belief; Jesus desires action. Like the prophets of old, we are called to ask “what are we supposed to do?” And in Micah 6:8 we hear God’s answer: “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.” Loving God requires a change in the way we treat each other, in the way we see God’s reflection in each person we meet, in the way we go about the most ordinary of things. When I fell from 2-½ miles up, I was not alone. My teacher and I functioned as a unit. I was not simply falling as a spectator; I was a student learning how to skydive.

We are students, not spectators. Each of us falls from the sky without any ability to save ourselves. Yet, when we listen to the Teacher, when we join in the work God has already begun, when we let go and trust — we can have an exceptional skydive and an even more exceptional life. God and the skydiving preacher were falling together. Each of us must be a participant in our salvation. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

“Now you must continue to make this new life fully manifested as you live in the holy awe of God — which brings you trembling into his presence.”

– Philippians 2:12b The Passion Translation

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.