Ever felt like you were falling and not sure what you were heading for or where you’d land? Or worse, did you just KNOW, as you were falling, that you were headed toward immeasurable doom? How did it turn out? As bad as you thought? Or did things turn out differently once you had a clearer picture?
When I was in my 20’s (yes…it was a LONG time ago) Heather and I headed to Nanaimo, BC to do a bungy jump at this place. If you live on the west coast and have ever wanted to make a bungy fall, it is worth the trip. You jump into an otherwise unused Nanaimo River canyon from a 140’ bridge built just for bungy. It is incredible. And if you time it right, at the full extension of your bungy cord, you actually dunk into the river, which is a frigid “cherry” on top of the ice cream of an epic experience.
After Heather and I had both bungy jumped, we sat back and took in the gorge and the natural setting and noticed a “special” they were running on a nearby sign: JUMP AGAIN TODAY FOR ONLY $____. I’m not sure what it was but it didn’t seem like a lot and I figured, what the heck. I might never be back (I was right… I haven’t). So I paid the extra dough with Heather’s blessing and climbed back up the otherwise empty bridge. When I got up there, the jump assistant, a shaggy 20 year old looking dude who looked like he had been touring with LMFAO, said in a Fast Times At Ridgemont High voice, “Dude, want a real RUSH? Fall backward!”
He seemed to know what he was talking about, I was up for another adventure, and so, “sure,” I said, “lets do it. I will fall backward.” I got hooked up with the bungy cord around my ankles and slowly shimmied backwards to the edge of the plank from which I would be leaping. But as I prepared to flop, my shaggy assistant said, “Wait, there’s more.” He tied a rope around my wrist and instructed me I needed to fall parallel to the ground for maximum effect. He explained he would lower me back till I got all the way parallel… and then he would let me go. He began slowly easing me backward until I was leaning over the river below.
I was almost parallel to the ground, when he looked down and looked surprised. “Wait,” he said, “there’s a large ship down there and I need to wait before I can let you–“ and then the rope slipped from his hands. He hadn’t even finished his sentence when his grasp on the rope failed and I began falling to my certain doom. What do you do when you’re free falling to a certain death? Well, I’m proud to let you know, I screamed like a little girl. I still had my bungy cord around my ankles but as he had told me, I was falling for a huge boat. The worst part is that as I cascaded down the 140’ length I kept trying to turn my body mid-flight to get a look at what I would be crashing in to. But it’s not easy to turn your body while falling backward. Screaming, flopping my arms, slowly trying to rotate, all the while absolute CONSUMED by fear….this was my 2nd bungy jump experience. When halfway down I finally was able to get enough of my neck turned to get a clearer picture of the river below, I realized I had been duped. There was no ship. This was my RUSH. I had been told a lie…I wasn’t falling towards anything dangerous at all.
I’m mindful know, many years later, that the lesson learned in my free fall applies to more than just adventure sports. When I talk to people, many people feel like they are falling. We live in a society that has achieved almost historic levels of material success, and yet marriages fail, anxiety and depression are rising, and a cultural and collective despair has set in. In a recent Seattle times article, the writer Jon Talton discovered that, “A Rasmussen Poll last October found that only 37 percent of likely voters believed that America’s best days were ahead. In a Gallup survey, 55 percent of respondents said it was very or somewhat unlikely that today’s youth would enjoy a better life than their parents’ life.” Read the article, you can see what I’m talking about. Collectively people feel like they are falling.
The fear of falling is real, and the fear that follows acute situations isn’t to be minimized. Much of the fear comes from the loneliness of falling alone. When you share the challenges of present life with a strong family or a strong business unit or a church community, the “falling effect” can be minimized. Don’t want to be scared about your present situation? You might need a better rope- you want to know you are falling with others and that you will be okay. The value of community, of sharing the load together, can minimize our individual struggles. We learn this from the triune picture of God that arises throughout the bible. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all form the orthodox Christian understanding of whom God is. And this 3 in 1 nature, this community of God’s self if you will, forms unity. It is precisely this unity that calls us as believers into building strong unity with one another. Its like God created us humans to be more fully alive when we are in relationships with another.
The bible says that when we bear one another’s burdens we fulfill the law of Christ. We have the DNA of attachment in our bones. We crave to be connected. And when we’re on our own, we’re more susceptible to the “free fall effect” of being gripped by our situations and totally alone in our pain. I hope that 2012 is a year of CONNECTING for you, for your family and friends. If you are like me, it is hard to be relational at times. I am selfish and private and get too busy with myself to meet the needs of others. But I’m understanding that when I’m party of a community, I am actually able to be more fully myself. So may we walk together this year. We’re not falling anymore if we journey together.