God and the skydiving preacher falling together

Published 3:44 pm Saturday, September 8, 2018

by Nathan Decker

(Part 3)

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a Heaven for”
– Robert Browning

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 final lesson I experienced skydiving was a glimpse of heaven on earth. As a pastor, I get asked a lot of questions about the afterlife. My truthful answer when it comes to the details of what happens when we die is: I don’t know; I haven’t done that yet. Like all disciples of Jesus Christ, I trust and follow my Lord in life, in death and in the hope of resurrection.

As the writer of 1 John said, “what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” Like the group Mercy Me, however, most of us take time to imagine what heaven will be.

After the parachute deployed and the free fall came to a sudden gentle and graceful soaring, I caught a glimpse of heaven. Everything was quiet. Peace whispered gently into my ears as a gentle breeze. We soared through the sky and literally passed through clouds. From the ground, clouds look like puffy pillows. When you are floating through the sky, they are massive expressions of the grandeur of God.  As we entered the cloud, I felt the condensation on my face like tiny cool kisses of the embrace of grace. Opening my eyes I watched as tiny rainbows danced inside the cloud as sunlight prismed through the droplets of future raindrops. The vision was heavenly.

When we got to the other side of the cloud, I could see the drop zone, the landing strip, our destination.

My heart was racing in excitement, yet my spirit was still. There was no worry, no fear and no trouble.  I inhaled deeply the freedom and love given so graciously by God. That was my glimpse of heaven.

Jesus fondly left the crowds behind, going off by himself up on mountains or long walks down the beach by the Sea of Galilee.

I think I know why. He was taking a moment to see heaven on earth. It is the same reason that when folks looked him in the eye they felt as though they could see something beyond the poverty, the pain, disease, death and oppression.

They could see heaven in his eyes. To be wrapped in the blanket of a cloud, kissed by the misty birth of raindrops, and see reminders of God’s promises of love in tiny rainbows prismed around me — how could we not be inspired, how could we not try to love more deeply, how could we not pause at the holy?

To find what we seek we must first begin looking. God has placed the extraordinary inside the ordinary, the sacred in the mundane, the divine in the natural world.

Take time this week to see the glimpse of Heaven God has placed in the sunsets, the flowers, the clouds and the people you meet. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the promise between the earth and me.”
– Genesis 9:13

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