Why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Over the past week I have been researching a lot on places to skydive, as well as the science behind skydiving. About two weeks ago, I made the terrible decision of telling some friends that I would go skydiving for my birthday. Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who is too scared to ride Acrophobia at Six Flags and almost threw up after riding that claw-shaped thing they have at the fair. I’m not scared of heights, I just have an irrational fear of jumping out of planes. Oh, wait, did I say irrational? I meant rational. Because anyone who jumps out of a plane for fun is crazy. However, I already said that I would do it for my birthday, and as we all know, a real man keeps his word. I’m like 42% positive that’s in the Bible somewhere. But as the time passes by and my birthday gets closer and closer, I can’t help but re-ask this question over and over again: why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane?! I mean, seriously? Within that plane, it’s peaceful. It’s calm. Your blood pressure is low, you haven’t peed your pants, and you’re just cruising at a steady altitude of 14,000 feet. Sure, you may experience some unexpected turbulence, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Maybe some rough winds every once in awhile, maybe a bird flying into the propeller every once in a while. Again, nothing you can’t handle. It’s all good, you’re just chillin’ in this perfectly good airplane. But you can’t help but notice the open door right across from you. On one side of that door is you, along with peace, quiet, and inherent safety. On the other side is the unknown–filled with risk, discomfort, possible pain, and maybe even death. Now, you can stay on the plane. You can avoid all the possibilities that you may encounter from exiting that door by simply staying on the plane. Or, you could inch on up to that edge and take a leap of faith. And in that leap of faith, I promise you will not be thinking about net neutrality or whether or not that girl in math class likes you. All you will be thinking about is that quote from Anchorman: “60% of the time, it works every time.” But instead of cologne, this is a parachute. And you may die. So again I gotta ask: why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane?
It’s because the reward is far greater than the risk. Yes, you could fall to your death. But more than likely, you will accomplish something that very few have had the willingness to partake in. See, most of us are on a perfectly good airplane. And to be honest, we want to stay on it. It’s peaceful, it’s calm, and it’s predictable. Yeah, there’s some rough air, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. Sure, we may pull some all-nighters doing three days worth of homework in a twelve hour period. And to all you freshman who don’t think it will take twelve hours to do three days worth of homework: welcome to high school. We may have some family problems that are tough to deal with. We may have some anxiety or depression that we are dealing with. But at the end of the day, it’s nothing we can’t handle. At least, not with God on our side, anyways. So we continue to cruise at this steady altitude. We continue to do whatever it is we’re doing: school, work, athletics, you name it. But we can’t help but notice the open door right across from us. On the other side of that door is where God wants us to be. And, truthfully, it’s where we want us to be, too. See, that door leads to the unique desire and purpose God has planted within each of us. Yet so often we are afraid to cultivate it. We are afraid to take the jump. By taking the jump, we are taking a risk. And if there is one universal fear, it is the fear of the unknown. So we stay on the plane. We see the door, and we see where the jump may lead us to. We see the reward, but we are all too wrapped up in the risk of what it will take to get there. And by staying on the plane, we eventually miss our opportunity at taking the jump. Because eventually, that plane is gonna land. And as the opportunity is missed and the plane decelerates, we are left with a life that was not fulfilled. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not talking about skydiving anymore.
I believe there are three kinds of people when it comes to having lived an unfulfilled life. The first kind is the person who has everything he could ever want, has done everything he has ever wanted to do, and has maintained a career in which he found purpose and meaning in. Yet he did not know God. At the end of his life, he realizes that there is something he has missed out on. But it’s not “something”–it’s someone. It’s a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The author of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, had everything he could ever want. He had countless amounts of wealth, women, food, and land. In his own words, he says, “I had everything a man could desire!…but it was all meaningless–like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” (Ecclesiastes 2:8-11). Solomon realized a life spent apart from the One who gave him life is simply meaningless. Yet many people go through life every day apart from God. They might have taken a leap of faith, but it was a leap of their own faith.
The second kind of person is the kind that most of us are. This is the person who has a relationship with God, yet does not jump out the door because they believe the risk outweighs the reward. This was me up until about six months ago. And if you knew me back in sophomore year, or even before sophomore year, all I can say is sorry. I was weird. Very weird. The only way to describe my life back then is depressing. Not because there was any circumstance in my life that would have triggered depression, rather I had built up a mental wall blocking out all positive emotions and all senses of joy and optimism. See, I wanted friends, yet I was afraid of making friends because I assumed they would eventually leave me. Ironically, I became mad at God because I had no friends. He had given me the opportunities, I just never took the jump. This applies to much more than just making friends or talking to girls; this applies to whatever it is that you feel an urge to do in your heart, yet are hindered by the thought of risk and discomfort and choose not to do it. Just as I choose not to talk to girls because I’m afraid of being rejected (and most of the time, I am), many people choose to not follow the path God has set out for them because it is filled with uncertainty and trials. Often times we make excuses. We know what we feel called to do, or where we feel like God wants us to be, but we make excuses as to why we can’t get there. The question is not whether we have the opportunity. We live in America–there is opportunity all around us. The question is whether or not we have the will.
The third kind of person is the kind I hope none of us are. This is the person who has neither God nor secular fulfillment. And by secular fulfillment, I mean finding some sort of purpose and reward in all aspects of life. This is the person who is just on the plane for the ride and is often just waiting for the plane to land. Maybe they even jump out the door, but they jump without a parachute. This is the person who has lost all hope. And, it makes sense. For if God is not real, then, at least in my opinion, there is no purpose to life. Which, in effect, means there is no purpose in doing anything worthwhile on earth. There is so much to be said for helping this third kind of person find hope and purpose. But for today, I am focused on the second kind of person.
Towards the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes, “the living at least know they will die. But the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime–loving, hating, envying–is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth.”
I’m not huge into tattoos, but if I ever do get one, it will probably say “Memento Mori.” Remember that you have to die. Or, remember that you are going to die. So many people say to not think about death. They say that its “depressing”. But I say to embrace death. I’m not afraid of dying; I’m afraid of not living. So embrace the fact that one day, you will stop breathing. Embrace the fact that one day, you will see the sun rise for the last time. You will kiss your spouse for the last time. You will take your kids to school for the last time. You will pet your dog for the last time. One day, you will live for the last time. Only when you begin to embrace death can you truly begin to live. And to truly live means to live purposefully. And, I believe there are two kinds of ways we should live purposefully. The first is simply living purposefully and intentionally every single day, no matter what the situation is. This means recognizing that since any day can be our last, we need to make every day worth it. In other words, live each day as if it is your last, because one day, it will be. Even in the futile and menial tasks, we can still live purposefully by doing something every day that will both benefit our own life and the lives of those around us. So workout, read books, listen to podcasts–invest in yourself every day so that you are constantly bettering yourself as an individual, and then use what you’ve gained in your life to better the lives of others. This is done by having real conversations with people, and not just talking about surface level topics. So invest in yourself, and in turn, invest in others. The second form of purpose is perhaps the hardest form, and its the one that I’ve been hinting at this entire time. This is the unique purpose and desire buried within each of us. Yes, the general purpose of every Christian is to serve God. But there are a lot of ways to serve God (not all are in the church, either). We can give God glory no matter what it is that we find ourselves doing. I believe that each of us has some sort of desire for greatness in life. Yet so often we settle for mediocrity. We are afraid to take the risks to get us to where we want to be; we are afraid to jump out of the plane. Yes, mediocrity is comfortable. But in the words of one of the greatest presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, “never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.” You will never get anywhere in life if you stay still. So sure, we could all settle for a mundane life, and probably end up living a decent life full of very few risks and a great 401k at 65, but I’d rather die at 18 in a firefight knowing that I lived with purpose than live a long, yet mediocre life. I’m not at all saying that having an office job and a great retirement plan is somehow bad or wrong. I’m just saying that we should not trade our passions and desires for mediocrity and safety, because mediocrity and safety will kill you. Maybe not physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Just take a look at all the middle-aged men who seem to be living in Groundhog Day as if they’re Bill Murray. They wake up at the exact same time, drive down the same roads every day to a work that they hate, do the same work for eight hours, and then drive back home only to ignore their wife and kids and sit on the couch for three hours watching ESPN. The most exciting part of their day is when the “dilly dilly” Bud Light commercial comes on. Except they aren’t saved from the pit of misery. Their lives are miserable. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to be that kind of man. He either lost his purpose or never found it in the first place. Either way, he has stayed upon the plane of life. He has become complacent, and complacency is the brother of mediocrity.
So how do we ensure that our lives are well spent and lived with purpose? Well, the first and most obvious answer is to invest in yourself, and in turn, invest in others. Specifically by serving others, in whatever capacity that may be. But the other aspect is finding our God-given purpose and drive. For if we don’t know what it is we’re jumping after, then we’re never going to leave the plane. So take some time. Go on a spiritual journey. Metaphorically climb Everest and let God reveal to you what it is you need to accomplish in life. I’m not saying that you should drop out of school and go live in the woods for two months while you wait for God to reveal to you your purpose. I am saying that you need to take a real examination of your life and allow God to unearth whatever it is He has buried within you. If you are alive, you have purpose. Don’t waste any time on living an ordinary life when God has called each of us to live an extraordinary life. For just as William Wallace said in Braveheart, “every man dies, but not every man truly lives.” Just as death is an obligation, so is our purpose in life. So find what God has obligated you to do, and jump out that plane. The risk is discomfort, pain, and the unknown. The reward, however, is a fulfilling and satisfying life. But then again, why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane?