Friday, May 1, 2015

Living on a prayer

I do not like heights.

But, several years ago, I felt compelled to go sky-diving. 

I made the arrangements and early on a Saturday morning, I drove south and west of my home to a sky-diving school. For four hours, myself and several others received detailed instructions, we learned about technique, and we learned survival reactions to emergency situations. We went through a dry run on the ground of what would happen to us in the sky.

Finally, it was time for the jump. A few of us loaded into the small airplane and began our ascent. After climbing several thousand feet, the door of the airplane was opened and I was told to prepare to jump- I knew if I did not go first, I would chicken out. 

Sitting down, I swung my feet out the door and onto the strut of the plane. I grabbed the back edging of the wing and with great effort, stood up outside the plane. The wind was blowing in my face. I could hardly breathe. I made the mistake of looking down and nearly lost my heart. My knees were shaking uncontrollably. 

I inched my hands to the end of the wing and then, stepping off the strut, I hung suspended on the wing. I turned and made eye contact with my instructor as I had been told to do. She was hoping that I was still conscious. I was. She smiled and nodded her head. That was my signal. I leaned my head back, took a deep breath, and let go of the wing. 

The line of my parachute was connected inside of the plane- my falling body weight was to open it. As I fell, I began counting..." 1001, 1002, 1003, 100..." and then came a most glorious sound- that wonderful sound of my parachute opening.

I looked up. My parachute was tangled and my toggles (brakes) had to be adjusted, which I took care of. 

Then, I settled in for the descent. The ride down was outstanding. The view was incredible. 

I never felt so alive. 

I screamed. 

I laughed. 

I kept telling myself how amazing it all was.

Some few minutes later, I was back on the ground and still in one piece. I felt exhilarated and excited. I felt like kissing the parachute that got me safely back to the ground. 

Through my life, there has been another life-saving device that has become so significant to me. That life-saving tool, one that affects both my physical as well as my spiritual life, is prayer.

Several years ago, I served as a young missionary in Germany. I had been in the country approximately six weeks when a new transfer came. I was unprepared for that event. I was being asked to leave companions, a city, and people I loved and enjoyed. 

My new city felt friendless. I was homesick. I had not yet learned to love my new companion. I was trying to adjust to mission life, but it was tough. Our missionary efforts were met with constant rejection. It was bitterly cold. Day in and day out, we walked the city, trying to find people with whom to share the gospel. We had little to no success.

Every day, I felt like I was using every ounce of inner strength just to make it through the day. In my heart and mind was a constant pleading to Heavenly Father. I told Him, "I cannot do this by myself. You have to help me." This went on for several days. 

One day, we decided to tract out some homes on a hill. My companion had her map of the city out and we were trying to decide which direction to take. As I stood there, it felt as though someone opened up my head and began pouring love into me. It went all the way from my head down to my toes and filled my whole being. I felt a power. I felt strengthened. I knew that Heavenly Father and the Savior loved me. I knew that my petitions had been heard. I knew that They were aware with the things I was struggling.

With that experience began a renewed and acute awareness of my personal need to rely and depend upon Heavenly Father and my Savior for everything. 

It has been a long time since that experience in the street of a city in southern Germany. But, I have never forgotten it. It has sustained me. And, I have relied on it many times to get me through difficult and painful times.

Prayer is real.

It is life-saving

Without the right to pray, I would rather die.