Nov 04

Flying on Instruments

Flying on Instruments


But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved. Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.                                                  (Hebrews 10:39-11:1 NLT


Some years ago a friend of mine was renewing his instrument flying license, and he asked me if I would like to go along. Enjoying flying as I do, I jumped at the chance.

It was a lovely sunny day, and the instructor and I, looking out the windows, could enjoy it. But my friend could see none of that, because he was wearing a large dark visor that completely blocked his vision of anything but the instrument panel of the plane, as would be the case if he were flying at night or in clouds.

As I recall, the instructor flew for the take-off, and then turned the controls over to Bill (not his real name). At this point, I was really hoping that Bill had learned his lessons well, because he and we were completely dependent on his ability to follow the instruments. There are three that are absolutely vital: a compass, a turn and bank indicator, and an altimeter. The first determines what direction you are heading, the second tells you what attitude you are in: straight and level, turning, or climbing or descending, and the third, how high you are. It is absolutely essential that the pilot follow these instruments, because when we humans have no external point of reference, our senses are completely unreliable.

After we had flown awhile, with Bill responding to the instructor’s instructions about compass heading, turning, and climbing or descending, the instructor said we were ready to head back, and called the airport tower for directions. Looking out, I could see the airport far away on our right. But as the flight controller gave Bill his directions about heading, attitude, and altitude, I watched us move around and slowly begin to line up on the runway. If we drifted a little right or left, the controller’s calm voice would guide Bill back again, and by the time we reached 500 feet and Bill could lift the visor and land us visually, we were lined up perfectly.

As I watched this all from the back seat, I thought: this must be how it is for the angels looking on at us. They can see our destination perfectly and see whether we are headed in the right direction with the right attitude and at the right height. We can’t see it at all, and unless we can find some external reference points, some instruments, as it were, we are lost. But thank God, we do have an all-sufficient instrument, the Bible, the Word of God, and we do have the voice of the Flight Controller, the Holy Spirit, sounding in our ear, telling us how to read that instrument. Maybe sometimes the angels hold their breath as we, unseeingly, drift off the flight path. But again and again they must smile at each other, seeing how, not listening to our conflicting senses, but following the instruments, we, still unable to see the runway, are yet lining up perfectly. What a day it will be when the Controller says, “Ok, you can lift the visor and come on in.”

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