By David Faust
What did it take the first time someone used a parachute? bravado? curiosity? insanity?
Jumping into History
According to Skydiving.com, the ancient Chinese invented umbrellas and parasols, which acrobats used to entertain the emperor with daring stunts. In the 1500s Leonardo da Vinci sketched a soaring device, but he never risked taking the leap himself. In the 1600s the Croatian inventor Faust Vrancic sketched a man leaping from a tower supported by a sail-like cloth, but historians disagree about whether he actually tested his idea. In 1785 a Frenchman named Lenormand coined the term parachute (which literally means “to protect against falling”), and that same year Jean-Pierre Blanchard began making parachutes with folded silk instead of linen, testing his creations by using a dog as the passenger.
History.com credits another Frenchman, Andre-Jacques Garnerin, with the first noteworthy parachute jump. On October 22, 1797, he leaped successfully from a hydrogen balloon 3,200 feet above Paris using a 23-foot canopy attached to a basket. (Garnerin died years later in a balloon accident.)
The Polish balloonist Jordaki Puparento jumped to safety in 1808 when his hot-air balloon caught fire, the first time a parachute saved someone’s life. A century later in 1908, Leo Stevens invented the ripcord, which came in handy in those new airplanes being developed by Wilbur and Orville Wright. A fellow named Grant Morton made history in 1911 when he successfully parachuted from a plane over Venice Beach, California. Two years later Georgia Broadwick became the first woman to parachute-jump from a moving aircraft, and in 1935 the famous aviator Amelia Earhart used a parachute to jump from a 115-foot tower built to train soldiers. (She described the leap as “loads of fun!”) By World War II, paratroopers leaping from planes had become a standard part of military protocol.
Today skydiving is a weekend sport for some and a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for others. Fatalities are tragic but rare, occurring about once in every 176,000 jumps. On October 24, 2014, Alan Eustace, a 57-year-old senior vice president of Google, set a record when he leaped from an altitude of 135,890 feet (nearly 26 miles above the earth) supported by a specially designed parachute and wearing a spacesuit equipped with a life-support system. Skydivers today benefit from centuries of dreaming, planning, experimenting, training, and even dying by others. All things considered, they regard the experience worth the risk.
Jumping into the Father’s Arms
God calls us to take a different kind of leap. Not a leap into the dark—a leap into the light. Christian faith is supported by abundant evidence, but it requires commitment beyond what logic alone can explain.
The Christian’s leap of faith is like a boy standing on a high fence who jumps eagerly into his dad’s strong arms—trust overriding fear. Abraham took the leap when he left his homeland to go wherever God led him. So did James and John when they left their fishing boats to follow Jesus. Believers take the leap when we die, trusting God’s promises as we step from earth’s familiar surroundings into Heaven’s new adventures.
Science has taken humanity a long way, but we never outgrow the need to run like eager children into the blessed arms of Jesus. When is the last time you stepped out and took a leap of faith?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
|May 16||M.||Isaiah 11:1-9||Peaceful Faith|
|May 17||T.||1 Thessalonians 5:1-11||Children of Light|
|May 18||W.||Galatians 3:23-29||Children of Freedom|
|May 19||T.||Romans 8:12-17||Children of God|
|May 20||F.||Matthew 18:1-5||Innocent Faith|
|May 21||S.||Luke 1:46-56||Certain Faith|
|May 22||S.||Luke 18:15-17; Mark 10:16||Like a Child|
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