Summary: If Paul was willing to endure hardship, face death, and live with risk, perhaps there are some small steps we might take to give everything for the gospel.
Living on the Edge
July 16, 2006
Some years ago, I remember presiding at the funeral of one of the older ladies of the church. I noticed that one of the grandsons was in the congregation dressed in his army dress uniform. At the cemetery following the committal service, I walked over to chat with him for a minute. When I got close, I noticed that he had his pants tucked into his boots. I said, “So you’re a paratrooper.” He told me that he had just completed training. I asked him why anyone would want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. He laughed at me and said parachuting was the greatest thrill he had ever had. I’m glad we have young men who are willing to do that in service to their country, but I will never understand them.
In recent years, skydiving has become more and more popular as an extreme sport. Some skydivers can never get enough. The 49th Annual Skydiving Championships will be held this year from October 21-28 in Eloy, Arizona. There is a relatively new event in the championships. It is called “swooping.” If you log on to the web, go to www. swoooping.net to find out all you want to know about this new sport. According to the website, even the most extreme sport becomes boring after awhile, so some daredevil invented this new form of skydiving.
To begin, you need a new, high performance parachute. This, along with all the other gear may cost you a number of thousands of dollars. Also, according to the website, you need hundreds of regular parachute jumps in order to be ready for this more demanding sport.
Swooping is done with a smaller parachute which provides the jumper with more speed. The parachute is opened almost at the last minute and then with some tight turns near the ground, the swooper drags his or her feet. Usually it is done over a body of water. Sometimes someone will drag their feet through a field of corn. Swooping distance is measured from the first touch of the foot to the water until landing. The latest world record that I could find was accomplished by a jumper named Shannon Pilcher, who swooped for 418 feet. Horizontal speeds sometimes can reach upwards of 90 miles per hour.
It is a dangerous sport. Doing all of those tight maneuvers close to the ground can result in serious injury or even death. But that is the thrill of it, I guess. There are only a couple of hundred swoopers in the world, but they are killed at the rate of three or four a year. Despite the danger – or perhaps because of the danger - a number of organizations now exist to promote this sport: The World Swooping Association, The Pro Swooping Tour, and the European Swooping Tour, plus others.
But you know, there are always people who are willing to go all the way to the edge, to risk injury and even death in order to be part of something bigger than themselves.
My daughter Dominique was a very fine high school athlete. Captain and MVP of her Cross Country team for three years; she was also All-Conference honorable mention during her freshman year and All-Conference first team for the next three years. Toward the end of her sophomore season, she began having pain in her left lower leg. We took her to a doctor and he discovered that she had a stress fracture below her knee. She had been running 35 to 40 miles a week for six months. Much of that running had been on pavement, and it finally caught up with her.
For the next several weeks, her coach worked with her to rehab that leg, but it still wasn’t completely healed by the time Sectionals came around. Dominique really wanted to run in the Sectionals, so we took her back to the doctor, who told us that it was up to her. We were afraid of long-term damage to that leg, but he said that running on it wouldn’t cause any further injury. He said that if she could run through the pain, it would be alright for her to do that. Her coach left it up to her – said he would understand if she chose not to run. We told her that since the doctor has given his OK, she could run if she wanted.
As a freshman, she had placed 7th in Sectionals and her team had advanced to Regionals. If you’re not familiar with Cross Country racing, the top five teams and top fifteen runners advance to the next round. I was talking to her before this race and she said, “Dad, wouldn’t it be awful to be number 16?”