Reverend Patrick Evans, Senior Pastor
As many of you know, I have my private pilot certificate. That certification grants certain rights but also requires I take on certain responsibilities. There are requirements that I practice flying in order to stay proficient. For example, there is a rule that I must have performed three take-off and landings in the past ninety days in order to fly with a passenger. My flying skills must be exercised and practiced in order for me to remain proficient. So, in addition to practicing, I decided to continue my training and advance to the next level: Instrument flight training, or IFR training. Instrument training requires that you be able to fly the plane by not looking out the window for visibility. It is necessary in order to fly in clouds. With a private license alone, you are not trained to fly into clouds, so you must go around them. The ability to fly into areas of low visibility, i.e. clouds, requires a new set of skills. I have been amazed by how much faith is required in this training.
After all, there are several bad things that could happen in clouds. The primary problem is becoming disoriented. Once you lose visual orientation, your feelings are a poor indication of what direction you are flying. They are even poor indications of whether you are right side up or upside down. Remember as a child closing your eyes and spinning around, then trying to figure out which way you are pointed? It's the same thing, but worse in an aircraft. If you get disoriented, an attempt to make a proper turn may feel like you are level, but you're not. So then, a long slow turn develops into a steep turn, which then develops into a graveyard spiral. There is a reason it is called a graveyard spiral. Your next stop will be the graveyard.
The cure for keeping the plane safe is not to trust your feelings but to trust your instruments. The instruments are there to keep you safe. When you have no outside view, you must trust your instruments.
This reminds me of 2 Corinthians 5:7 "For we live by faith, not by sight." It is true in life as well. Our feelings can get us in all sorts of trouble. We are called to live by the word of God, not by our feelings. We must have faith utilizing scripture as our instruments in order to navigate ethical and Christian living, even when we can't see. The second challenge of flying in clouds is that, without visual, you might bump into someone else. There are air traffic controllers who keep planes safely separated in the sky, so in instrument training, there are several lessons on communication and following directions.
Any time I fly instrument procedures, within a few hundred feet of leaving the runway in Texarkana I call Fort Worth on the radio. I tell them who I am and where I am. Then come some comforting words, "radar contact established" and they tell me my altitude. It means there is someone watching me and keeping me separated from other traffic. While I cannot see all that is out there, they can and I fly safely trusting them to watch over me.
Our dependence on God should be the same. God can see much more than we can, but too often do we not live by faith. God can direct our path, but like the air traffic controller, we must be willing to listen, and then also obey. If an air traffic controller can keep a pilot like me out of trouble how much more can God?
As Christians, we are called to live by faith, not by sight. But before we can experience all God has in store for us, must learn to trust, even in the cloudiest of times. Our destination is a place that none of us have seen, but we have faith that through Christ, it will be revealed.
Grace & Peace,
Rev. Patrick Evans