Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cockpit Fear

Last night we were cruising in smooth night air at 29,000 feet when Boston Center cleared us to descend to "Flight Level one-nine-zero".  Us being 280 miles and 47 minutes north of Philadelphia, en route from Ottawa, Canada, that didn't seem right.  I asked my First Officer to get an explanation from them, while I slowly started our early descent to FL190.  The controller sputtered something back like 'well got crossing traffic descending blah blah NY' etc., so I grudingly accepted his explanation.  At least we questioned it, I should've asked him why before we accepted the clearance, as that is within our rights as Pilots.  Choppy air at our new altitude made the 'seat belt sign off' time short lived.

Then, however, I did have a few moments to observe the scene outside the small room we shared.  The mostly full moon, the 'smaller great light', at our 10 O'clock high position above us, was shining through a sliding sheet of scattered thin clouds above us, like headlights shimmering through sheer curtains in a secret pair of lover's room of rendezvous.  Right in front of us, shined upon by our nose landing light, rain from nowhere is hitting us at 320 knots indicated, without a sound or feel, as the turbulence had subsided for a bit. 

That, combined with the rest of the sky, make for a surreal scene.  Life at this instant wasn't black and white, but all in shades of gray, nuanced in mottled, smooth cloud layers swished around near and far, with slate gray and muted blue tones backdropped toward terra firma and the upper atmosphere.  The horizon was gone; only the brightly lit moon remained as a comfort.

I looked over at my dark haired, masculine First Officer, and he was deeply reading something I had given him earlier.  He's a good Co-Pilot, but he had me irritated before, just a little bit, multiple times, after commiting various 'rookie' type errors.  I resolved to watch him more closely and not let my guard down for the rest of the trip.  "Look at this view, you can really appreciate this, with the moonlight and clouds sliding by", I said.  With an aggressive but graceful and strong body language, for a long moment he gazed up at the moon, now exposed without any clouds in the way, then straightened up, leaned toward me, and looked me deeply in my eyes.  Something about this was suddenly disconcerting to me.  "Oh, I know about the moon, believe me, much more than you know".  His clear and convicting words struck me suddenly as I felt the  adrenaline rushing through me.  'Surely he sees, and certainly enjoys, seeing my eyes widen', I thought upon comprehending that his gaping smile now shows his fangs, real fangs, bared, fangs I have always associated with the 'legend' of vampires and horror films.  Until now, that is.

Fear has shown itself to me, and is suddenly rushing me headlong, forcing me to react, as strongly as is humanly possible for me to do so.

The previous was mostly true, except for the Co-Pilot part.  Happy Halloween, I guess, and I hope you're not offended by my foray into the 'dark side'.  But I tell you this, by my own experience and lay training, I believe that Evil (with a capital E) is not just the subject of legends and folklore, woven over the milleniums and our last few centuries into our culture and traditions.  Evil exists, and it has a name.  In my experience, evil constitutes the enemy, or the thief, and "the thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy" I have come that they may have life, and that may have it more abundantly." - some of Jesus' most excellent words from John 10:10.

Fear is a strong emotion that does force us to react, whether in life or in flight.  As a matter of coincidence, everyone has heard of the term 'fight or flight' in regard to how humans react in situations of fear or danger.  How do Christians react, and what spiritual weapons and tools do Christians have at their disposal to fight evil?  Good question, I could wax all day long on my lay knowledge and my personal experiences of dealing with what in my heart I consider to be true encounters with evil.

Ok, you twisted my arm, here are a few paragraphs straight from my faith narrative I refrenced twice in previous 'New Vantage Point' blog posts:   "Once each, during the last two of my college years, a striking thing occured to me that I responded to in the strength of th Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.  As I was trying to fall asleep demons attacked me, in my dreams, perhaps.  It felt like it happened right when I was on the precipice of being unconscious.  They had the appearance and atmosphere of true evil and hatred, like nothing I've ever experienced.  Both times I sat upright in bed, rebuked the demons loudly in Jesus name, and prayed in confidence that I would sleep like a baby.  I woke up both times well rested, asking myself "did that really happen?", then answered my roomate's questions about what was going on last night.  Then I recalled that when I was a child, my mother taught me well how to rebuke Satan and evil spirits.  I feel that these this experiences indicated the spiritual reality of the wrestling going on between God and the enemy over control of my will and sin nature."  BTW thanks Mom!

As Christians, what shall we fear?  Better yet, as humans, what shall we fear?  I found a few scriptures which might shed some light on the subject. 

Jesus talks quite a bit about Hell in the gospels.  As distasteful as it may taste to the sense of fairness and the expression of human freedom, the Bible teaches that Hell is an eternal destination for some.  I don't want to defend the concept of Hell straight on too much, so click here for a thoughtful explanation on Hell. 

The corollary, or opposite reasoning for it, might start with the following free-form expression: Without getting too theological, God is a Holy, Pefect God, and in the eternal scheme of things, God demands that all beings who exist in his realm be perfect.  We become perfect and holy in God's eyes by believing and receiving, in our heart of hearts, Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  The incredible, merciful, full of grace, and loving sacrifice of Jesus, The one and only true Son of God, being crucified on this cross for our sins and imperfectness enables this to be so.  The theological term is sustitutionary atonement; Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross as a substitute for us.  He took the punishment for our sins so we can have a true relationship with God now and for eternity. 

So, those who die who have rejected Jesus Christ as their personal savior are in danger of being sent to Hell for eternity, to be separated from God.  Jesus backs me up with his words in John 3:18: "He who believes in Him (God's Son) is not condemned; bt he who does not believe is condemned already, beacause he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."  Also, in Luke 12:5 Jesus gives a clear warning on what to fear: "But I will show you whom to fear: Fear Him (God) who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you fear Him!".

In spite of the starkness those who stand next to standard tradition Christian doctrine espouse, blessings are yours and mine to be had, available straight from the Bible, in many verses where we are taught not to fear:

From Psalm 27:1: "the Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"

Another great passage on fear from Romans 8, which my aforementioned Co-Pilot helped me find (he really is a great guy, a fellow brother in Christ, we talk about our common faith and Lord quite a bit) is from Paul's letter to the Romans in chapter 8:28-39 (New International Version)

'More Than Conquerors'

"28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:

"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Yes, you might be wondering after a careful reading of that passage, whether I think that the world is a dangerous place for Christians.  I fully agree that it is, and that it is getting more dangerous.  And I stand confidently on God's promises that we have nothing to fear in Christ Jesus name.  Glory be to Almighty God!

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