Imagine you are in a small plane, flying at 10,000 feet above South Placer County. It is a clear autumn morning, the sun is up but only producing a brisk 58 degrees; there is a moment of white on the Sierra Nevada Mountains, signaling the first of many snow storms had arrived last night. Dressed in jeans, tennis shoes and a tee shirt (if you are a girl, the outfit matches; if a guy, then you don’t care), you can feel the cold outside the plane, which is ten degrees lower than on the valley floor. You slide open the passenger door of the four passenger Piper; the wind instantly tears through the interior creating a tornado like effect with the few papers on the dash. The velocity of the chilled air striking your bear arms makes you believe you now know what it must feel like to be lost in a blizzard – in a bathing suit. (You were always one for drama!). Unbuckling your seat belt, you send a nod to the pilot, place both feet on the door threshold, and jump. In less than a second, the plane is a distant memory.
As Newton predicted, you fall towards the earth accelerating at 32 feet per second. Depending upon your weight, and position while dropping, you will reach terminal velocity in 7-10 seconds. This is the point where your descent speed can no longer increase, but remains constant at about 125 miles per hour due to the friction of the surrounding air. Kind of a good news / bad news story: you’re not falling any faster, but you are falling real fast. It will take another minute to find the ground, but a lot can happen in a minute.
Imagine you are a passenger in a car with your window rolled down. At freeway speeds, it is fun to hold your hand outside. It takes some effort to keep your arm from moving backwards; it is a fun game all of us have played at least once in our life. The story is very different at 125 miles per hour; the force of the air pressing against your arm is huge. The energy required to hold your arm out the window is tremendous. If a bug were to hit your hand it wouldn’t hurt. A small pebble would sting and bruise; a bird would break bones.
Now you are back in the sky, fifteen seconds from impact. The ground is racing towards you; if you could open your eyes, seeing the detail on structures or landscape would be difficult. Holding steady is nearly impossible and your lungs can’t seem to pull in any air. By the time the building or park you are racing towards is recognizable……………..it is over.
Now imagine a different scenario. At fifteen seconds from impact you begin to slow, completely contradictory to Newton’s theory. The cold air is replaced by a warm blanket and soft pillows. Your body is gradually oriented with your feet down, as you slowly descend until the earth meets you with a safe and peaceful welcome home. The pain and fear are gone, the laws of physics broken – replaced with a soft landing in a comfortable and relaxed place; as if an angel had stopped your fall.
All of us will be in a place in the next week or month that feels like we are in a free fall; out of control hurling downward toward a certain unhappy landing. It might be a jump off a five foot ladder, because of a bad business meeting, dinner argument, or long commute. Or it may be a back flip off the Empire State building brought on by the loss of work, an illness, or other damaging news. One certainty is that destructive events will come our way; the other certainty is that God will be with you when they arrive.
Our mind would tell us that when falling downward at 125 miles per hour there is nothing to hold onto but air – and we can’t grab air, so we are going to hit bottom. However, our God tells us that He is also in the fall, offering an outstretched hand that will guide us to a soft landing. God may come in the form of your spouse, friend, or pastor – or as God himself, but I guarantee that He will be there. But, don’t take my word for it, ask Him.
Thanks for reading.