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Skydiving & Discernment

"You have to jump to feel the pull of the parachute."

My spiritual director, Fr. Sibley, told me this several times in the last decade. I've always associated this quote and analogy of skydiving with discernment. He taught me there isn't always clarity, but you can always take one step in one direction and see where that takes you. To see if you feel the pull.

I wasn't prepared, really, to go skydiving. I've always wanted to, but I never really had an opportunity. My cousins and I thought about going for our 30th/40th birthdays, but that was two years ago. When I brought it up in our group chat on Good Friday, I was hoping this weekend would be the time we do it!

It was a beautiful, clear-skied, perfect day. Anxiety and excitement filled my chest like a bass drum as we drove to Oceanside. The others were either really ready and excited or really nervous...I was somewhere in the middle. The night before I had a little scare when we were discussing the prices of the photo/video packages. As my cousin Bridget said, I went from "zero to a hundred" when I misunderstood what she meant by paying for "an extra jumper." She meant a videographer, but I thought she meant for tandem jumping. I shared that besides the video footage, I just wanted to NOT go first. Ideally, I would go third, perfect in our family group of six.

While we were waiting for our group's turn, one of the girls told us about what to expect based on the last time she was there. She said they give you a little training, they ask if you want to do tricks, and sometimes they let you steer the parachute after its release. Feeling more confident as we watched several jumpers soar down, we got into an area to meet with our instructors and photographers. One by one, my group gets into harnesses.

"Aleah? Hi, I'm Tim, here's how everything's going to go..."

"Audrey? Hi! I'm your videographer," and

"Bridget? Is this a special occasion? Your birthday?! Right on!"

The other people in our group were all ready, trained, and had photos and videos taken. My instructor was still not around. "He's coming!" they assured me at least three times. The plane swings around to the dock area, and each person in our group boards with their instructors and photographers...except me. They tell me, "Don't get on the plane without an instructor."

Bridget holds my hand as fear begins to show in my expression visibly. It's her turn to board. She hugs me, lets go, and says she'll see me on the plane. There I am, alone, with half of my family ready to jump and the other half on a platform ready to watch us. Yet there I am, alone, in between two. I turn to each half of my family to sign that I am crying (I was half-joking.) My cousin Audrey motions for me to take deep breaths. I ask everyone who can see me, "Where's my instructor??" with the overly expressive body language of Dora the Explorer or a kindergarten teacher (or just a plain ole theatre kid.) I was joking about the tears initially, but I was crying now. (Honestly, I was thinking of worst-case scenarios here. Are they going to leave me? Am I going to have to jump alone?? How come Audrey has an instructor AND a videographer and I have NO ONE?")

Finally, my instructor introduced himself to me.

"I'm Aidan!"

"I'm crying," I respond.

"You're crying?"


"No, what's your name?" "Oh, I'm Krista."

"Ready to go, Krista?!"

He takes a few pictures of me in front of the plane, and when I step on the stool to board, I realize that I might be the first jump...(and the last shall be first.) Bridget holds my hand as we ascend. The view is gorgeous. They open up the sliding door that's parallel to my right leg, and I feel the cold wind. It's time!

I try to remember the instructions my cousins received that they relayed to me. Aidan tells me to drape my legs out of the plane. I do as he tells me to (half expecting a 3, 2, 1! countdown), but then my whole body is out of the plane. I only fall for thirty seconds, but it's so exhilarating. They told us you fall at about 120 miles per hour.

Why would you do that? an instructor told us earlier he was asked often. "Because it's possible, he said, "to find out why the birds sing!"

I feel the tug of the parachute. Our fall decelerates. I enjoy the view. The greenery. The ocean. The wind, which is still cold. Aidan does a few tricks. I laugh. I'm in awe. The tears are forgotten. I scream, "I understand now! This compares to nothing! I get it! It's so beautiful!"

Even though I'm the first jump, someone is far below me. I point to them and ask Aidan, "Is that us?" He laughs and says, "No, we're us. That's them." He doesn't let me steer, but I enjoy the rest of the ride anyway.

Skydiving Lessons in Discernment

  • Sometimes you have to go at something alone. Your family and loved ones might be with you on either side, but ultimately doing God's will is for you to freely choose yourself.

  • Don't panic if things don't go as planned or as you expect. Sometimes things feel SO BIG while it's happening, but don't let it paralyze you.

  • Also, let yourself feel all the big feelings. It might make your journey so much richer and fuller. But don't the feelings "drive."

  • Get a spiritual director. A good one. I always say "Every Olympian has a coach, and I think every saint had a spiritual director."

  • Find out why the birds sing. The scariest things in life (like our vocation) bring us freedom of heart, and it can only cause us to sing.

  • Don't compare your jump to their fall. Your journey is going to look so different than anyone else's. You are called a unique individualized vocation just for you!

  • Laugh at yourself. Enjoy the ride. Don't get too bogged down by the seriousness of "finding" or "missing" your vocation. God's path for you is joyful and fun, and He wants to have fun with you.

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