What can back fall dives teach us about trusting in Jesus?

 

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Have you ever played that game called the Trust Fall?  It’s often played at youth camps or in youth groups, but also in organisations, businesses or sports teams as a trust-building exercise.

You begin by crossing your arms in front of your chest while keeping your eyes firmly shut. Then you allow yourself to fall backwards into the other person’s arms without trying to put a foot out to steady yourself. Another variant of the game is where you’re standing up on a high platform such as a table. You allow yourself to fall backwards into the arms of a group of people who will catch you below.

The object of the game is to have complete trust that others will catch you. This is usually a step of faith on your part. By being vulnerable, there is the possibility that they could allow you to fall and hit the ground, but you have to trust that they will in fact catch you and avert such a disaster.

 

People often use this game to demonstrate trusting in God, particularly when played in church contexts. Are we able to fall back into his loving arms in complete surrender, knowing that he will catch us? Sometimes however, as in the video above, it seems as if we can’t see God there at all. We wonder whether he will indeed catch us or whether he’ll allow us to fall, particularly if we’ve been through a wilderness period or our hopes have been dashed when life takes a wrong turn.

It’s easier when you’re simply doing this as part of a game. When you are having to trust God for a difficult situation in life, it’s much more difficult.

DIVING INTO FAITH

I do a much more extreme version of the Trust Fall every week. I take springboard and platform diving lessons. I’m by no means anywhere near professional standard as I started far too late.  It’s a difficult thing to start when you’re an adult. When you’re older, your body is not as flexible as those who start it as a child. You also don’t have the muscle memory developed over years of practice either. It’s harder to make your body turn in mid air. I just do it for fun because I love water sports.

One of the standard dives you’ll do at some point is called a Back Fall Dive or Backward Entry, as seen in this video below with British Olympic diver Tonia Couch:

 

WHAT CAN BACK FALL DIVES TEACH US ABOUT TRUSTING IN JESUS?

What does a back fall have to do with trust? And more specifically, how can it teach us about trusting in Jesus?

Well, like the trust fall, the back fall dive is also a test of faith, but you don’t have anyone there to catch you.

To understand this better, let me tell you a bit more about the dive itself.

There are two main variants of the back fall. The simpler version is when you stand on the balls of your feet at the edge of the board with your back to the water and your arms raised above your head. Then you overbalance slowly, reaching back with your head and your arms while keeping your body in a straight line so that you enter the water vertically, hands first.

The more advanced version is where you start with your arms by your side like in the video above . You allow yourself to fall backwards, still keeping your arms at your side. Only as you are pointing vertically downwards do you raise your arms above your head towards the water.

I’m going to talk about the simpler method where you start with your hands above your head, because it illustrates my point about trusting Jesus more specifically.

 

THE KEY TO THE BACK FALL DIVE IS WHERE YOU FIX YOUR EYES.

The key to the back fall dive is where you fix your eyes

 

The first time you stand on a high platform or board with your back to the water, it can be very scary. There is a natural tendency to want to protect yourself. However, if you don’t do this correctly, it can go wrong.  You can end up slapping the water which, I have to say, can definitely hurt!

If you are afraid and try to keep your head down and look inwards, then you won’t rotate correctly. You will be curved too inwards and you’ll probably land flat on your back as you hit the water. This can be painful from a height when you slap it at that speed.

Conversely, if you attempt to over-compensate by tilting your head so you are looking either outwards or behind you, or you bend your legs or back too much, this will cause you to rotate much faster. You will flip and your body will over-rotate so that you will either do a belly flop or at least your legs will slap the water because you’re not going down vertically.

The way my diving instructors tell me to do it correctly is to look upwards and to keep your eyes focused on where your hands are. Your eyes direct where you go, and your hands follow as your body leans backwards across the hip joint. This allows you to rotate into the right position where you are travelling down vertically. At the same time, your legs need to stand firm. No bending at the knees, so that you are not arched backwards too much. Then your eyes focus on the water as you’ve rotated round.

I’ve somewhat simplified the explanation as I don’t want to get too technical here, and I’m sure a more experienced diver will be able to tell me all the little details I’ve missed.

However, all of this is an act of faith as you fall backwards into deep water. You have to ignore your instincts to want to either protect yourself by looking and curving inwards. Avoid trying to look outwards or behind you too much. You have to trust in the whole process that keeping your eyes upwards will direct your path. If you  lean on your own instincts or understanding, it will cause you to enter the water incorrectly.

Similarly, with the harder version of the back fall dive, your eyes still guide your path. As you can see in the video above, Tonia Couch starts off with her hands by her side. She is not looking up to begin with. However, once her arms are above her head, her eyes turn and focus towards the water. Her eyes are guiding her hands.

 

KEEPING OUR EYES FIXED ON JESUS

Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus

 

The diving board example is a helpful analogy what happens when you are standing at the edge of deep water and God asks you to trust in him when there seems to be nothing to catch you.

In a similar way to diving, if you look inwards too much – in other words, within yourself, you’ll only focus on your own problems and how you’re feeling about everything. You can become overly introspective and fall into a pattern of self pity.

In her book Get Out of That Pit, Christian author Beth Moore writes how, when we fall into one of life’s pits (a state of wilderness or prolonged hardship), we can lose our vision and focus on the wrong thing. This can sometimes prolong our stay there and prevents us from trusting God:

“A pit is so poorly lit we can no longer see things that may have once been obvious to us. That’s another reason we often stay in a pit. Without windows we’re convinced we have nowhere else to go. Yes, we can always look up … but we’re often too focused on our sinking feet to crane our necks to the blinding sky. We become what the Bible calls stiff necked. The close confinement of a pit exhausts us with the endless echo of self-absorption. Visibility extends no further than six inches from our noses. We can’t see out, so we turn our sights in. After a while, nearsightedness breeds hopelessness. We feel too buried in our present state to feel passionate about a promised future.”

As with the back fall dive, if you focus on the wrong thing you’ll land on your back when you hit the water and likely get hurt.

Conversely, if you look outwards too much – i.e., at the world around you, or you keep looking behind, you’ll only see all your circumstances and difficult situation. These can overwhelm you and allow you to only see the visible rather than the invisible.

It’s also very easy to compare yourself to others and how they seem to be doing in their journey. When you do that, it’s easy to forget how God may be working in your life.

The right thing to do is to look upwards and heavenwards to God. Keep your eyes fixed on him. As you take that step of faith and fall backwards into his arms, God will direct you in the right way to go.

The Good News Bible translation of Hebrews 12:2 says:

“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.” 

With our own eyes, we have a tendency to look only at the visible world around and what is humanly possible. When we shift our eyes off ourselves, we are able to look beyond our own circumstances. We able to see what God wants us to see with the eyes of faith. This helps us to gain a right view of God and of His power.

Corrie Ten Boom said:

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.”  

 

SEEING THINGS FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

Standing on a diving board for a back fall

 

Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths”

Or the NIV says “he will make your paths straight.”

With the back fall dive, it’s easy to lean on your own understanding instead of focusing on the correct thing. If you do align your eyes correctly, this will direct your path and your create a straight trajectory into the water.

Similarly, when we trust in the Lord with all our heart by fixing our eyes firmly on him and his promises, he is able to direct our paths.

When we keep our eyes fixed only on our own situation, we end up doing what the Philosopher did in the book of Ecclesiastes. Often, he spoke words of despair and frustration, perceiving that life was futile and meaningless.

He was seeing things only from “under the sun”, which essentially means from a human perspective.”

When you look within or look at the world around you, it’s very easy to become cynical and lose hope.

In Ecclesiastes however, the Philosopher would occasionally have a paradigm shift and see things from “above the sun”.

Likewise, when we fix our eyes on God instead, we begin to see things from “above the sun” – i.e., from a heavenly perspective or God’s point of view.

That can help us to have hope and to see his invisible hand in impossible situations.

As Rick Warren says:

“To endure the unendurable, you must see the invisible – Jesus.”  

 

CONCLUSION

 

Do you have trouble trusting in God and allowing yourself to fall into his arms completely? Are your eyes fixed on the wrong thing rather than on God, the author and perfecter of our faith? Do you tend to focus more on yourself or on the world around you instead of on the invisible?

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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.

What can back fall dives teach us about trusting in Jesus and keeping our eyes firmly fixed on him when we're about to land in deep water?

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Thank you for this insightful post. I like how you compare trusting in Jesus with a backward dive. Good analogy! 🙂

  2. Great post and a great reminder to be more mindful of where my focus really is. It can be hard to not be distracted by the world and my struggles — however, when I keep my focus in Him, He always gets me through.

  3. Reading your comparison made me realize that if I keep my eyes firmly on Christ in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, I can’t go wrong. Sometimes I forget about the “little” things and try to carry those on my own. But God wants ALL OF US. Every tiny bit. We can’t prosper outside of His grace. Trusting in Him, keeping my eyes on Him, that’s how I can succeed in my life. I also have to keep in mind that success by the world’s standards tends to look incredibly different by HIS standards. Thank you for making me think and for reminding me where my eyes need to focus. Blessings!

    1. Thanks! And you’re welcome. We definitely do need to keep our eyes fixed on him but we often have a tendency to want to look elsewhere.

  4. Robert, this one is hitting me on a number of levels (and unsurprisingly, I have massively failed the trust fall every time I’ve tried it). I’ll have to come back to this post to mull things over a bit. Thanks for sharing! I’m sure I needed it!

    1. You’re welcome. It’s easy to try to follow your natural instincts when you don’t want to fall. It can take a real act of the will to try to override that and do what God tells you to do in the situation rather than what your own understanding tells you. I definitely know that with diving, if you follow what comes natural to you if you want to protect yourself, you actually end up getting more hurt than if you follow what the instructor tells you to do.

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