Sep 28

Flying by the Seat of Your Pants?

 

 

I’ve read that an eagle, like many other animals, can sense a storm before it arrives. So the eagle flies to a high spot and waits for the inevitable winds. When the storm hits, the eagle sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm but simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.

God has allowed a storm in your life, and He will give you His strength to rise above it until He ultimately calms it.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31

If you feel that soaring above the storm is hard work, uncomfortable, and sometimes downright scary, you are right! That’s why I use the analogy of a storm—we might not mind one from a distance, but it’s not exactly pleasurable when we’re smack-dab in the middle of a big one.

In fact, flying in a storm is extremely dangerous. My cousin Jim knows this from his half-dozen years of soaring into hurricanes and typhoons as part of a U.S. Air Force weather reconnaissance team. It was his team’s job to gather weather data so forecasters could better predict a storm’s strength.

As they work, it’s critical that team members trust the “artificial horizon”— a line on the plane’s instrument panel that always corresponds to the earth’s horizon, no matter in which direction the plane is flying.

“When you’re in the clouds and in storms and you can’t see the horizon—the earth the ground, good old terra firma—you have to rely on the artificial horizon,” Jim explains. “You have to trust that it is representing the horizon. You have to trust that it represents something you can’t see.”

Because of the extreme variability of the weather, there are two government ratings for pilots: one group is cleared to fly only when there’s good visibility—following Visual Flight Rules—and the other is cleared to fly even in poor visibility because they can keep a plane controlled solely on the data from their instruments—by Instrument Flight Rules. If you recall after John Kennedy Jr.’s fatal plane crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said the young pilot—who only was rated to fly with Visual Flight Rules—had become disoriented in the night sky and lost control of the plane.[1] Experienced pilots are taught to rely on their instrument panel—no matter how they feel—because they can become so disoriented in clouds or during a storm they may actually think they are flying up when they really are heading down.

In the early days of aviation when aircraft had few navigational aids, a successful flight was accomplished mainly by the pilot’s judgment and instincts; that is “flying by the seat of your pants.”

“All you could do was fly by your sensations,” Jim explains. “If you were coming out of your seat, you must be upside down. If you were pressed down into your seat, you must be flying higher.

“The problem is that [our perceptions are] not always accurate. You can feel like you’re flying normal and perfectly fine, but it’s just that the airplane is falling at just the right speed that feels normal. You have to look at your instruments and believe them.”

Flying by the seat of your pants through your storm isn’t a good idea either. Feelings can be overpowering and paralyzing. You may become so disoriented you don’t know whether you’re headed up or down.

That’s why you need to decide every day to trust the magnetic poles of the earth—in other words, to recognize that God’s Word is the compass on your instrument panel in the storms of life. It is truth, which, just like the pilot’s artificial horizon line, always will point you in the right direction.

When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation. Proverbs 10:25

Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. Psalm 37:34

I love author Max Lucado’s perspective[1]: “Faith is trusting what the eye can’t see…Eyes see storms. Faith sees Noah’s rainbow.”

Dear Lord, It’s hard not to focus on the storm around me. Please help me to trust that the promises in Your Word are more reliable than my feelings. Give me the strength to rise above this storm and even the faith to see a rainbow. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

[1] “NTSB: Pilot Disorientation Led to Fatal JFK Jr. Crash,” CNN.com, July 6, 2000, http://archives.cnn.com/2000/US/07/06/jfk.crash.report.02/index.html.

[2] When God Whispers Your Name, pg. 214, Max Lucado, Thomas Nelson, 2009.