Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Parable of the Parachutist

A man had studied skydiving, read every book, taken every written test. He wrote a dissertation, passed his orals, got a Ph.D. in skydiving. He began teaching Theory of Skydiving at a prestigious university. Eventually, he was awarded the esteemed Chair of Theoretical Skydiving.

One day at a coffee shop he met a soldier who had actually made a dozen jumps after a short period of study. After a few minutes, the professor decided the soldier was nice but a bit low-brow. He changed his mind about inviting him as a guest speaker in his Parachute Theory class. Years later, the professor retired after making ground-breaking contributions in the field of Skydiving Theory, hailed as among the most important theoreticians of skydiving in the modern age, never having actually made a jump himself but understanding the principle well. The soldier had saved lives on missions that involved jumps, and had learned skydiving from a different kind of instructor.

Hearing God's word is one thing, but doing it is the jump. Would you be more likely to jump yourself if your teacher was the soldier's teacher or the professor? Have our seminaries institutionalized a timid Christian life? Given that study is necessary, at what point does further study amount to hiding from the risks of a real jump?

Most Christians have made some small jumps. But the more I talk around, it seems that most of us have our eyes on one particular big jump that God has laid on our hearts. Lots of times, when we look at the big jump, we go back to the books, or pray for wisdom (which, we may secretly hope, means the wisdom to do something other than jump).

Praying for the courage to jump.


codepoke said...


1) Jump where?

2) You forgot to mention that the parachutist is half crippled from those dozen jumps. He doesn't walk real good any more, and keeps talking about the mistakes that he made. Every real jumper I've ever met bears real damage.

It adds to the story.

Weekend Fisher said...

1) That's the beauty of parables, everybody can know in their own mind where they're jumping.

2) I don't think I'd go past "walking with a limp." The one real jumper I know likewise bears real damage, but the actual point of the parable isn't actually parachuting ...

codepoke said...

I'm sorry, I was refering to Christians who have stepped out in service of the Lord. The Christians I know who have truly gone beyond theory all bear pretty heavy scars from their adventures.

I've only known one actual parachuter (and yes, he had permanent back trouble.)

Weekend Fisher said...

Ok, I'll bite -- can I hear some stories about the people who have jumped? Please? Just to be clear: not the parachutist, the Christians.

Michael F. Bird said...

Weeky, I've done 30 military jumps. And it is one of the most physically things I've ever done. So good analogy.

codepoke said...

Sorry, didn't mean to ignore your question. I just didn't see it.

As I read your parable, I was struck by 2 things. How important those theoreticians are, and how frightening it is to follow in the footsteps of jumpers because they have such a bad limp.

We cannot advance without theoreticians, so I don't like to see them portrayed as cowards. I am rough on some theologians, don't get me wrong, but an honest theoretician is of inestimable value to the church. Pushing some of those theoretical boundaries is hard, necessary work. Not many can do it.

Jumpers who have been hurt?

I've never known any who weren't.

Paul the apostle comes to mind, but I will stick to my mother in the Lord.

She was saved in her mid 20's, and immediately gave herself completely to the pursuit of the Lord. She quickly became profitable in her baptist church, and rose to positions of usefulness. She got a job in a Christian bookstore, and began devouring books in her spare time. She had 2 boys, and time went by.

After a few years of faithful service, her time in the bookstore began to expand her horizons. She learned about the doctrines of grace, and began teaching them.

She jumped.

In a private forum, I would tell much of what happened next. Out here, I am not at liberty. 40 years later that church still pursues her. If they find out she is attending a church, they privately meet with the pastor and tell lies about her. I have met with a pastor who was given this treatment, and I know what they said.

Was any of it her fault? Undoubtedly. But, that's how it is when you jump. You make mistakes, and they're expensive. Other people take shots, and they are crippling.

OK. I have written for over an hour now, and deleted much more than I have left. My Mom in the Lord would approve of me saying what I have said about her, I'm sure. Beyond that, I cannot bring myself to talk about these other people.

I know another brother who has gone home, who introduced me to the ideas of home church. Long before he ever got into home church, he was drummed out of the business of pastoring. He had done nothing wrong, except preach TULIP. He saw a truth, maybe even *the* truth, and jumped. The things that happened to him left indelible scars. He was a beautiful, beautiful man, one that I was thankful to know and follow, but he had a very real limp.

Of course, now it sounds like all the stories I have seen are around doctrine. They are not, but the other stories are more recent.


I'm sorry. I am completely frustrated by having too much to say, no freedom to say it, and having already spoken too long while saying almost nothing. Tomorrow is a long day of reading technical documents, so I am going to have to get to bed. I'm probably off on a wrong tangent anyway.

The parable is a great one. I'm just a little twitchy about the brave jumper, I guess. I just cannot see him without seeing this parade of people who thought they were going to jump and land safely. They didn't. They landed horribly. The Lord was there, and He worked all things to the good for His own, but it was such a surprise to them. They deserved a chance to count the cost. That brave jumper, counseling the reader in this parable, seems to offer too pat an answer.

Obviously, my first question to you was "jump where?"

I pray the Lord's grace on your decision, and trust that everything I have written has nothing to do with what you are thinking about. The Lord bless you.

codepoke said...

michael f. bird,

it is one of the most physically things I've ever done

Physically what?!?! Refreshing? Damaging? Strengthening?

codepoke said...

Sounds like a big jump you are taking now. Praise the Lord for an open heart, and may he bless your leap! I'm sure He will.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Poke

I didn't see your comment til late, thought my old comment had drifted too far down the page for you to notice.

About the theoreticians -- I am absolutely not dinging the study; but everybody is called to act, including those who study. I wouldn't want someone to overgeneralize "theoreticians are all cowards" 'cause they're certainly not all cowards; it's more addressed towards the whole tendency of our culture's Christianity to focus on study ten times more than on action; it's an imbalance.

I'm sorry that this has caused such a tangle of what to say in public. I'd love to hear what you had wanted to say but not in public. You can write me at [comment altered so email address no longer posted] which isn't my regular email address, I'll give you my real address privately.

As for my own jump, if God has told me once he's told me a dozen times, I have to get my own house in order before he gives me more responsibility than that. I'll continue to teach my children because they have to be solidly taught, and the home has to be well-ordered, and most of my own extended family needs bringing to faith (I'm a convert). So that's the first small jump I've been given. If you can't jump in place, you can't jump anywhere else, you'll just hurt yourself.

codepoke said...

If you can't jump in place, you can't jump anywhere else, you'll just hurt yourself.