My amateur boasting was humbled after 10,000ft jump, says Hermann
As a young ambitious paratrooper Hermann Meyer wanted to be a 'sky god' but was forced to swallow his pride after his big mouth led him into life-threatening trouble.
"I believed a 'real' paratrooper would not be the one jumping with static line and falling out of the plane like a bulky refrigerator," Colonel Hermann remembers thinking as a young Second Lieutenant 35 years ago.
With this notion in mind, he began exaggerating his abilities to gain respect from his military comrades.
"I started to claim to be a qualified free faller although I had only done about two dozen parachute jumps – all with static line," he admits.
As rumours of his feats spread, Hermann confesses, "my blatancy and swollen chest eventually led the lord-mayor of our unit's garrison to request if I could conduct a freefall jump demonstration as sort of highlight for the 1250 year jubilee of the city."
Light-headedly he agreed, hoping and doubting that the jump would not go ahead because of additional security regulations.
Yet one week before the event Hermann was informed that everything had been approved and he would be jumping out the plane following another experienced freefall paratrooper from the army reserve.
"With that information my throat immediately swelled close ... I suddenly knew there was no way out of this calamity other than humiliating myself," he explains.
"Three sleepness nights full of fear followed before I made my decision: I prayed to God and told Him how ashamed I was of my big mouth and vanity."
As he knelt before God pleading for forgiveness, Hermann prayed God would help him face up to the consequences of his sin.
"I begged Him to please carry me through ... and decided to make that freefall jump."
Hermann had learned about God's grace and undeserved love through Jesus Christ as a child growing up in a family devoted to serving God.
“I suddenly knew there was no way out of this calamity other than humiliating myself”"God wants to be part of every aspect in life – not only at special times or certain traditional occasions," he recalls his parents often telling him.
"Yet over the years I pushed the 'Jesus business' more and more into the background and relied only on my personal skills and abilities. There seemed to be no need to get any closer to God."
Yet the reality of what he was about to face showed Hermann that he could not rely on himself, life was not in his hands.
Sunday morning dawned and more than a thousand spectators assembled in the city square to watch the paratroopers make the 10,000 feet freefall.
"The Lord's grace was overwhelming," Hermann recalls of that moment. "I followed the old soldier out of the plane and was immediately whirled down in highspeed spirals – not a chance for an amateur and cheater like me to gain command and control of anything at all."
As Hermann tried to stabilise his lightening-like descend, he continued praying to God for protection and breathed a sigh of relief when he finally had the chance to open his parachute and come into landing.
"Tremendous silence and peace surrounded me. The Lord let me complete this first freefall jump of my life tremendously shaken and absolutely convinced that God is patient and faithful even though I did not deserve it and would never meet His perfect standards."
Reflection on that frightening experience helped Hermann realise that he was not as in control as he had thought and God deserved to be first priority in his life.
"From my parents' example, I knew it was totally unfair from me to only pull that last and ultimate rescue-cord of His help in situations that showed no success by using my own," he admits.
"I felt deeply ashamed and decided to make God the pillar of my plans of operations from then on."
As time went on Hermann says prideful ambition, self-reliance and ungratefulness sometimes clouded this revelation but each time he found himself humbled before God once more, finding comfort in the Bible's book of Psalms chapter 91.
Looking back on a life now as an experienced Colonel, Hermann has this to tell younger military personnel: "Trust in the fact that God loves you exactly how you are, because He designed you. Don't be ashamed and don't keep yourself away from Him. Run straight to the Lord because He is waiting with His arms wide open to welcome you back.
"There is no one like our Lord and [nothing better than] to rest and live in His loving arms and to try to follow His son, Jesus Christ, the way He showed us how to live. Dare to believe in Him and He won't let you fall." •