Letting Go

One has to be a little crazy to jump out of an airplane for fun. If any proof was needed, I've done it twice. The first experience was when I was a college freshman in 1972. On that occasion, I jumped with a static line which was a cable attached from the plane to my ripcord that automatically opened the parachute. The second time was 30 years later, and I did it right--exiting the plane at 12,000 feet and free falling until the altimeter indicated it was time to pull open. The parachute was so controllable, I was able to land within 20 feet of the target.

The feeling of weightless free fall, with only the sound of the rushing wind, was exhilarating. Once the chute opened, I had no sense of falling. It was as if I was silently flying, sometimes ascending instead of descending. But none of this would have happened had I not stepped out onto the landing wheel of an in-flight single engine airplane and grasped the wing strut. At that moment, my mind screamed at me "You're a complete idiot!" But I realized that I had come too far, so I let go.

I'm not the type of person who likes to let go. I like to be in control. I know from experience that when I let go, the first thing that will happen is that I'm going to fall, and falling can be the ultimate loss of control. This is true when I let go of my False Self. It was certainly true 3 years ago when I walked into the United States Attorney's office to confess my crime. Part of that fall was a trip to Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp.

From a spiritual standpoint, there is an archetype, often repeated, throughout history and mythology of individuals who encounter a descent followed by ascent that only completes itself when they let go of fear. It's what Luke Skywalker experienced in Star Wars, as he released his fear which had manifested itself as doubt and anger. Richard Rohr writes about this in his book Falling Upward and again in this daily devotional. He writes that this "is the pattern of transformation, and it is indeed a mystery--this is not logical or rational at all. We are transformed through death and rising, probably many times in our lifetime." Often the first half of life prepares us but also often leads us to the fall. The Bible is full of examples of this pattern--people like Joseph, Jeremiah, Samson, Job, and Jonah. The ultimate example is seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Spiritual ascent doesn't happen without descent, and nothing happens without letting go.