By Hank Slikker | PREVIEW Columnist
Not long ago, I stopped into a secondhand store. As usual, I went to the book section, where I found an oversize hardback full of pictures of prize-winning advertisements. As I scanned the images, my attention landed on an advertisement for a skydiving company. It read, “Find out if God really likes you.” The invitation appears as a vertically descending sentence, setting each word atop the next within a blue-sky background.
Hmm, jump out of an airplane to find out what God really thinks of me?
I wondered what the brand manager had in mind when he/she produced the ad. Why introduce religion into the picture? Perhaps it relates to the universal invocation whenever anyone gets into any airplane: “Hope God likes me.” You never thought of skydiving as a door to the future courtroom. Why bring it up to the customer?
Maybe the ad suggests God as someone like a carnival barker. You know, find out what God thinks about me through an adrenaline of mystical thrills. This could be the point — kind of like playing Russian roulette for the sensation you get when you win.
Of skydiving, one jumper says, “What’s more adventurous and thrilling than putting your life on the line? If you die, you die. If you have a safe, successful jump, you don’t.”
A couple of jumpers have experienced sensations that seem “heavenly.” One says, “Your mind, body and soul are in a place very few people in the world will ever experience, and nothing else in the world can offer the same feeling of pure euphoria.” And, “There’s an electricity in the air that cannot be described in words. The sky is our home, and it’s where our souls feed on the good stuff.”
What if He won’t tell me?
Fleetwood Mac’s imaginary man in their song “Oh Well” suggests we might be better off not knowing. God tells him, “… don’t ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to.”
But I’m probably misreading the ad.
Instead of finding if God is keen on me when I jump, it’s a relative thing. He just likes some people more than others. Parsing the claim, “find out if God really likes you” when you dive could mean perhaps God likes parachutists more than others?
One jumper says jumping offers an escape from a troublesome daily grind. “Life is challenging and filled with worries and regrets. When skydiving none of those things matter … Divorce, health issues, financial problems, childcare, job stress … It all goes away for at least five minutes.”
But, again, do I have to skydive to find out that earthly troubles don’t match up to godly experiences?
What if there’s a mishap?
Unfortunately, misfortunes occur. Because it does, skydiving groups generally will have you sign a waiver before you go up, which says something like, “You are jumping out of an airplane, and anything could happen.” In such a case, as someone has said, “the odds are always stacked in gravity’s favor.”
A friend of a friend of mine once jumped and landed on and through a barn roof.
Sometimes, however, people who survive mishaps talk to God before hearing from Him. One jumper recalls such an incident. She said, “I tried opening the emergency chute, but it did not open … I said, ‘God save me, please.’” He did. She said, “God’s angels guided me into the tree. He was there under the tree with His hands open to catch me.”
Please don’t think I’m against skydiving. I’m not. But you don’t have to head for the airport to find out what God really thinks of you. You can find out at your local Sunday school, where the children will tell you. They’ll all get together and sing to you how much God really likes you and, in fact, really loves you.
This column may include both fiction and nonfiction, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN. Submissions can be sent to email@example.com.