Before you jump, you can know everything and nothing at the same time.
I had assumptions about skydiving. Almost none of them turned out to be true. I had assumptions about marriage and parenthood too…
Before you jump, it’s easy to think you know all about the big things in life. You watch people do them; they become familiar. You see them on TV, in the movies, in the news; they become commonplace. People around you are constantly doing the things they do until you think you know all about them.
Before you jump, it’s easy to think that the table of contents, the dictionary definition, the executive summary of a thing accurately represents the thing itself. Like the Cliff’s Notes you read in school to get a grade instead of the book that was written to express a life, it’s easy to forget you can know all about a thing without knowing anything of it. You may think you know about things like Moby Dick and marriage, but until you’ve been lashed to the whale of your obsessions alongside Ahab or perched on a pile of anniversaries high enough to see the broad contours of your family’s life, your theories remain untested; your assumptions invalid.
Skydiving is like this, like the big things in life. Maybe it has to do with the falling—like falling in love or taking a fall or falling down drunk, there is a laying aside, a laying open, an intensity and abandon, a point of no return that can’t be communicated in anything but the first person.
Before you jump, you can know everything and nothing at the same time…
Before I jumped, I could never have imagined the impact of hanging from slender white threads and watching the tops of my boots suspended above a mile of nothing but silent space. Before I jumped, I would never have assumed my boots would be my most lasting image, the one I can still see through closed eyes from a distance of over fifteen years. Before I jumped, I could never have told you about the feeling of total release and liberation—forgiveness, even—from a day of constant fear.
As long as I had one last thing to cling to, I had a choice. As long as I had one last thing to cling to, I was afraid. As long as I had a choice, a decision to make, I could fail. But with the letting go, with the last thing left to hold on to receding into a deep sky, there was nothing left to do but what I already knew how to do, what I was trained to do—and to enjoy the ride. As soon as I let go and left all my choices behind, I wasn’t afraid anymore.
Before I jumped, I couldn’t have told you any of this, and before you jump, you’ll never really know what I mean.
We’re all skydivers. We’re all skydiving.
Right now, this moment, we’re freefalling. I’m falling, you’re falling, and since we’re all falling together in unison, we’re not aware; there’s no sense of motion. But if we stop and really focus on the objects around us, we can see them slowly growing larger and marking our passage. From the moment of birth, from the moment we were pushed out of our mother’s fuselage, we’ve been falling ever since—a series of events set in motion that will end at the moment of our death, no matter what we do or how we feel about it. The commitment was made without our permission, the point of no return crossed. One way or another, the ground of our death is coming up to meet us and the only choice we have is how to meet it back: in a graceful step under a bright canopy or kicking and screaming at 120 miles an hour.
But if only it were that easy. To stretch it further, it’s as if we’ve been pushed out of our plane in the blackness of night from an unknown altitude with no altimeter—we don’t know the height from which we started and can’t see the ground at which we’ll stop. How long will we fall? Sixty or seventy years? Thirty years? Until the end of the day? It’s the unknowing that does it to us. It’s the unknowing that makes informed choices impossible and the search for clarity a cruel joke. It’s the unknowing that scares us. It scares us so much that most of us choose to live without making a choice, choose to live as if still standing at the open door, trembling under the weight of all those unmade choices.
But we’re already out the door and falling—have been falling for as long as we’ve been alive. Continuing to live as if we’re still clinging to the door of our plane is illusion, self-deception. We’re living the anxiety, tension, and fear of trying to make a choice that has long been made, in the doorway of a plane that is long gone, landed and in the hanger, the pilot home having dinner.
The mind is a powerful thing: the reality we believe is the reality we endure.
Mental effort has nothing to do with trust; repeated experience alone creates the sense of risk-free-ness we call trust
Praise for Daring to Think Again
“I’m extremely confident David Brisbin’s latest book, Daring to Think Again will be read years from now as the embodiment of conventional wisdom on Christian thought. While contemporary critics may find him controversial, I doubt they will find him wrong. Brisbin’s point is that an historically informed understanding of Christ’s daring message provides us with a reliable guide for the navigation of a life, and he is a cheerful tour guide to this new landscape. Generous with memorable anecdotes and humorous stories, he leads us in his role as one of contemporary Christianity’s most fearless, honest, and objective authors.”
—John C. Drew, Ph.D., Author/Blogger: American Thinker, Breitbart.com, PJMedia, FrontPageMagazine, World News Daily
“Dave Brisbin has a gift of making simple the complicated religious mess we have collectively made of Christianity. He is a voice in the wilderness and a breath of fresh air. If you consider yourself a follower of Jesus, then he may help you discover the path your heart has long been seeking.”
—Chris Falson, Singer/Songwriter/Composer, Author: Planted by the Water: The Making of a Worship Leader
“We have arrived at a fascinating moment in history. At the same time religious institutions have developed a science of spiritual growth, Christians are discovering that is not what they want. Rather than be herded from one stage to another, believers are asking whether there is another way to walk with God that depends more on Spirit than structure and in practice is more organic than programmatic. Dave Brisbin’s answer is ‘Yes! There is a Fifth Way.’ Of all the books in the Christian marketplace today why should you read this one? To renew your mind, refresh your heart, and restore your soul.”
—Chuck Smith, Jr., Author and Spiritual Director for Reflexion—A Spiritual Community
“Dave and I met briefly at year twenty in my Christian journey and now here we are again at year forty. Our lives have merged again at an important crossroads, not just for ourselves but for the entire global community. It is time to enquire after the ‘road that leads to good’ and, as a result, to find ‘soulrest’ that will provide us with the energy of Jesus Christ to finish our passage upstream against increasingly stress-filled times. Dave proposes a Fifth Way; for what it’s worth, I think he’s right.”
—Graham Kerr, Former media person (Galloping Gourmet), Author: Flash of Silver, The Leap That Changed My World
“Western cultural Christianity has been described as ten miles wide and one inch deep. It is challenging mentally and painful emotionally to separate human traditions from divine authority. We are more comfortable quoting creeds than surrendering to an intimate encounter with God. Intriguing, fluid storyteller, musician and pastor-teacher Dave Brisbin challenges us to re-think the western cultural Jesus and re-discover the universal heart of the biblical Jesus.”
—Cornel J. Melia, Ph.D. Pastor, Author
About the Author
David Brisbin, MDiv/LPPC is teaching pastor at theeffect faith community and recovery ministry in San Juan Capistrano, CA. He is also executive director of Encompass Recovery, an addiction treatment center. His twenty five year study of the Hebrew roots of Jesus and Christianity led to his ground level approach to both spiritual formation and substance abuse recovery, processes he sees as one and the same from a practical and contemplative point of view. In addition to guiding people directly at theeffect and remotely through distance learning, his first book, The Fifth Way is available along with several audio series and hundreds of podcasts.