“Are you sure you want to do this?”
With my stomach in my throat, I’m afraid that if I open my mouth to back out I’ll throw up. So I give Frankie the thumbs up.
How did I get myself into this? That was such a stupid question. I knew exactly how it happened. I was afraid. I was afraid of getting old, of becoming irrelevant. It didn’t help that only a week after I announced my retirement the jokes started. They seemed to confirm my fears as they struck a nerve.
“Do you have your AARP card yet?”
“So what are you going to do with all your free time, old man?”
Old man, is that what I am? I don’t feel old. If the comments weren’t enough, the practical jokes started. My desk became inundated with retirement home pamphlets. My lunch orders for our weekly staff meeting always come with a side of prunes or some other food to promote regularity. The comments and jokes hurt, like the first time I was stung by a bee. The sharp pain sent chills through my body. Did I suddenly become old? Did retiring from my job mean I needed to retire from life and my dreams?
That’s what landed me here; flying ten thousand feet in the air strapped to my Tandem Master, Frankie, about to jump out of a plane.
“It’s a great day to jump,” my instructor yells in my ear, giving me a toothy grin.
What is that suppose to mean? Are their bad days to jump? Did I just get lucky picking today? If it was tomorrow did my chances of plummeting to my death at terminal velocity increase?
“Dude, are you ok?” Frankie sounds like a west coast surfer the way he says “dude.” I imagine him as being carefree and careless. This sends me over the edge.
“No, Dude, I’m not ok! I just paid three hundred dollars to be strapped to you, who is carrying my only chance of survival in what looks like a school kid’s book bag, on your back! I have worked my whole life in a job, so that I can retire with my pension. I want to travel with my wife, watch my kids and grandkids grow up, join the church softball team. Now I’m about to throw all that way because I let some harmless comments and practical jokes get to me. I was so afraid of appearing old that I end up doing something childish.”
“Whoa, how ironic,” Frankie chuckles
“Ironic? Yeah I guess it is,” I state feeling a bit more calm and foolish now that I have verbally regurgitated all over Frankie.
“Do you want to do this?” Frankie asks again.
There’s that question. Do I want to do this? “Not really, but you know what, I’m already here so what the hay! My life is in your hands, dude,” I say with my best attempt at copying his surfer accent.
Frankie laughes at me as we get ready to exit the plane. The endless sky before us leaves me breathless. “Nah”, Frankie says “Don’t give me that much power. There is someone much bigger than me who has that job.”
We jump from the plane. After a few seconds I spread out my arms, like Frankie, to stabilize our bodies for the freefall when it hits me. “All the days ordained for me are written in your book before one of them came to be.” Words from Psalm 139, my favorite chapter in Psalms, rush past me like the wind in our freefall. It shouldn’t be called a freefall, I think to myself. I feel like I’m flying. I feel exhilarated from the rush of adrenaline and the reminder that God is in control.
How could I have forgotten that God has this all planned out for me. He ordained my days. He has a plan for me, to prosper and not to harm. He knows the hairs on my head. Scriptures were rushing at me like the earth thousands of miles below me.
Why was I afraid? I almost don’t remember. “It’s time dude” Frankie yells in my ear. I wasn’t paying attention to him flashing the 5500 sign to me with his hands, indicating that it was time to pull the rip cord. I find myself disappointed that the freefall is going to end.
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