Taking the Curve

Hands on Cessna Controls

I don’t know if you are fond of shortcuts or not. I know I am—I think it’s fun to figure out back ways and go down side streets in the hope of saving a little time or seeing something different. Of course, these detours don’t always work out, but that’s another story for another time.

There are all kinds of shortcuts—in cooking, in working with wood, in gardening—almost anything can be done more quickly or more efficiently or faster if you want to. Of course, you can take your time and do things slowly and be all old school about it. It’s entirely up to you, and I won’t say a thing if you do.

One example of taking a curve came when I went with former choir member Lee Dearmond on a Pilots for Christ mission to Fort Wayne. Lee was International President of the organization at the time, and we were to meet a couple of members from Minneapolis who were bringing a boy and his mother from the Mayo Clinic in that city. Going out, Lee let me take over the controls after about an hour. I kept on course by following the straight green line on the Cessna’s GPS. Lee told me to keep it right side up, which gave me a start at first. Then I remembered that light aircraft are extremely stable, which meant I would have had to have tried really hard to flip the airplane. I flew on for an hour while Lee dozed. As a result of this stint at the controls, I tell people I have one hour as “Pilot in Command,” in capital letters. Impressive, I know.

We came to a waypoint where the GPS indicated that I should make a 90 degree left turn. I was slavishly following the green line and approaching the turn when Lee woke up. “Turn,” he said.

I thought, Why? I’m not supposed to turn yet. GPS

“Turn now,” Lee said, a little more emphatically.

I kept going. Finally, he put his hands on the controls. “I have the airplane.”

Now, FAA regs stipulate that if a real pilot in command says, “I have the airplane,” whatever imposter happens to be flying that airplane at that time must relinquish control immediately. If I had not, I would have been subject to civil and criminal penalties, and Mr. Lee, as we called him, wouldn’t have let me sing with him in choir any more. So, I took my hands off the yoke and mumbled, “You have the airplane.”

Once Mr. Lee had taken over, he put the Cessna into a sharp left bank, turning inside the GPS track and cutting off the corner of our course. I saw what he was doing: by not following the track, he saved time, money and expensive aviation fuel by taking the curve.

We got to Fort Wayne early since Lee flew most of the way. If I had continued flying, we might still be up there. Or not.

The spiritual implication of this episode is, I think, clear. Often we set ourselves on a course that we have determined and nothing can keep us from finishing that track no matter what. We will have our way, even if it is not the best for us or anyone else. But God sees what we’re doing, steps in, says, “I have the airplane,” and guides us back onto the right path. And this happens time after time after time until we realize that God really does know what is best for us, that we are fallible human beings and that we need to follow God’s leading, not just once but for all time through eternity. Praise God for a plan that takes the curve and leads us to a better place.




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