When I was in my teens, I used to go swimming in the big pool at the newly minted Etobicoke Olympium. It featured an Olympic sized swimming pool and two 10 metre diving towers. Every once in a while I would actually jump off from the top of one of the towers, pointing my toes and straightening out my body in order to make a clean entry. I didn’t have quite the courage to do a proper dive, but I was good enough to enter the water safely just jumping in.
When I grew older and finished high-school, I stopped going to the Olympium. There were other pools and other pastimes. One day, however, I had the urge to go back and do a little swimming and reminiscing and try the big tower again. The swimming went fine. It was great to be back in a huge pool. The diving tower, however, not so much. I got all the way to the top, looked over the edge, and I couldn’t jump. I didn’t panic, I just couldn’t make the leap. No matter how hard I urged myself on, there was no way I was going to get to the water from that height. I climbed back down and enjoyed the rest of my time in the big pool, taking the odd dive off the raised springboards. That much I could do to enter the water from up on (relatively) high.
My experience at the top of the tower gave me even more respect for stunt-people who regularly fall down stairs, off tall buildings and out of aircraft. Even just falling to the ground without using their arms to cushion the impact is pretty impressive. It’s just not natural for human beings to fall down willy-nilly.
Given this personal attitude towards letting gravity propel one to the ground without restraint, I was somewhat taken aback when one of my friends in ministry used the image of “Falling upon God” while praying for a group of us. Alton’s prayer suggested a deep, unwavering trust that God would receive us and protect us in our most desperate moment. It also implied our willingness to give up control totally, even to the point of letting ourselves fall, so that God could care for us.
One other thing that comes to mind is that in falling, rather than leaping or jumping or propelling ourselves towards God in some way, we are not simply giving God control, we are also getting completely out of the way of ourselves so that it’s all about God’s will for us and not ours.
It was, admittedly, a startling image, but in a good way. Alton’s “falling into God” made me think about how I approach prayer and, more broadly, my overall relationship with God. I want to be in control, at least a little bit. I don’t think I’m alone in that desire. But in reality, only when we give up control and fall into God can we be fully supported and empowered by the One who knows what we really need. You could say that the only way for us to truly stand tall is by allowing ourselves to fall into God.
Published previously, April 18, as part of my weekly “Thoughts” for my congregation, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Coldwater.