Bear Grylls: “I was biting the ground in agony …”




In the summer of 1996, I spent a month helping out on a game farm in the northern Transvaal in South Africa. I decided to head north to Zimbabwe for some fun before heading home to the UK. For me back then, fun meant skydiving with good friends, with cool drinks in the evening. Life was all good.

The flight to 15,000 fee was uneventful. I stood in the cargo area of the plane and looked down. I took a deep breath, then slid off the step. The clouds felt damp on my face as I fell through them. At 4,000 fee I pulled the ripcord and heard the canopy open with a reassuring crack. My free fall quickly slowed down from 130 to 25mph, just as it always did. But when I looked up, I realised something was wrong – very wrong. Instead of a smooth rectangular shape above me, I had a very deformed-looking tangle of chute, which would be a nightmare to control.

I pulled hard on both steering toggles to see if that would help. It didn’t. I kept trying but I was burning through time and altitude fast. Within seconds I was too low to use my reserve chute, and the ground was coming up fast. I flared the chute too high and too hard. This jerked my body up horizontally, then I dropped away and smashed into the desert floor, landing on my back, right on top of the tightly packed rock-hard reserve chute.

I couldn’t stand up; I could only roll over and moan on the dusty earth. I was biting the ground in agony. I didn’t know the extent of the damage at the time, that I had shattered three key vertebrae and would go on to spend months in and out of military rehabilitation back in the UK, strapped into braces and unable to move freely. But in those first few minutes as I lay there, one thing I did know was that my life had just changed forever.

Sometimes it isn’t until we get knocked down that we find which way is up. Sometimes it isn’t until the sky clouds over that we notice the light. And sometimes it isn’t until we lie in the gutter that we begin to see the stars. The light of God has been the greatest source of hope this world has ever known. We can never be so far away that the light won’t reach us. Sometimes it is good to be reminded of that. Hope will always win – and the light of Christ reaches everywhere.

Extract taken from Soul Fuel by Bear Grylls, published by Zondervan in the US and Hodder Faith in the UK.

Main Photo credit: Fair Usage

Bear Grylls

Known worldwide as one of the most recognised faces of survival and outdoor adventures. BAFTA award-winning TV host Bear Grylls began his journey in 21 SAS before becoming one of the youngest-ever climbers of Mount Everest.

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