When I was in the Navy I was a test pilot. I had an opportunity to fly all kinds of aircraft. My primary aircraft was the F/A-18 Hornet. But I also flew gliders, helicopters, P-3s and vintage WWII tail draggers (to name a few). One of the tasks of a test pilot is to evaluate an aircraft’s handling qualities for a given task. You would then evaluate the aircraft for a mission that would include the said task and others. For example you might have a task to land the aircraft on a runway. Of course most aircraft land on runways but helicopters can land anywhere. Depending on the mission you might have to land an airplane on different kinds of runways. They could be narrow or short or long or wide or asphalt or concrete or dirt or grass or the moving kind like aircraft carriers (those are the best runways, they go to cool places). Since it wasn’t always practical to land on different kinds of runways you would change the task to be common to all runway types. One of those tasks was to land the airplane on the centerline of the runway. You can see that if you had to land on a small runway then landing on the very center would be important!
This landing task was really easy in some types of aircraft but could be very challenging with others and depended on other factors as well. A really big airplane might be easy to land on the centerline of the runway with no cross wind but might be next to impossible with gusty cross winds. A fighter however might be easy to maneuver in changing conditions but because of the speed of approach very small adjustments were required to avoid over-controling the aircraft. In a big airplane you might be able to really move the yoke and rudder pedals to get the desired response but there was no fear of crashing the airplane because of how slowly it responded. A fighter however might absolutely flip over and crash if you got too aggressive with the flight controls.
OK, that is a lot of background but hang in there, it gets good and there is a point.
Back in the early days of the space shuttle program they would “drop” the shuttle from a specially configure 747 and the pilots would “glide” to a landing on the dry lake beds of Edwards. Everything worked great and there were no major issues. They transitioned to landing on the runway and then all kinds of bad stuff happened. The pilots found themselves in a PIO (Pilot Induced Oscillation). Think of it as almost out of control like skidding on a wet highway. You haven’t crashed yet but one more “oh no…” and you are upside down in the ditch. What they discovered (and later flight test procedures proved) is that when you are trying to land on a centerline it matters how big the runway is. For the dry lake bed the runway is huge! The for the concrete runway it has limited length and width. What happens is the pilot becomes more concerned with avoiding the limits than landing on the center.
Imagine walking across a bridge that spans the Grand Canyon. If the bridge is 100 yards wide you don’t even see the edge. Now someone says “walk heel-to-toe on a yellow line in the center of the bridge.” Piece of cake, right? Now what if the bridge is only as wide as the line? Ouch! You can actually feel the panic building inside you right now. What if the bridge wasn’t a bridge but a tightrope? OK, we just stepped into impossibility land. Even if you could keep your balance a gust of wind could mess you up and you would fall. You would get tired of concentrating all the time. It would become an impossible task.
This is what pilots experience when they have to land on more and more narrow runways. The task of landing on the center of the runway is eclipsed by the terror of missing the runway. They invariably over-control the aircraft. There are many mishaps (crashes) that have happened because of this Avoidance Maneuver phenomena. As soon as they return to a dry lake bed, the land exactly on the centerline and never miss, even in the most brutal cross winds and gust. I know, I’ve done it.
So I hope you are seeing where this is leading.
The law or rules or lists-of-do’s-and-don’ts or good moral self-effort or balance-to-Grace or sin management or whatever you want to call our insistence on law is the narrow runway. God gave us the law so we would see our bridge over the Grand Canyon as narrow as a hair. A tight rope would be too wide. This is what Jesus meant when he said stuff like this:
Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect
Matthew 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Matt 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Jesus was showing us how impossible it is to land a Space Shuttle on an aircraft carrier. He was showing us how one millimeter left or right of centerline will result in death. The law instinctively produces an Avoidance Maneuver. The “fear of the Lord” based on religion and self-effort has us over-controlling all over the place. We are crashing left and right. At some point we just give up trying to land at all. We just throw in the towel and say “the hell with it and me. At least death would be better than all this trying to live by the rules religion.” Finally, we get to the place we were intended to find. We get to live free of Avoidance Maneuvers. We get JESUS!
Praise God for Jesus. He is the way, the truth, the life. In Him we have everything. In Him we live His life. We abide in Him and He abides in us. We have the infinite resources of Heaven in our bank account. We are delivered from narrow runways.
Now we “get to” land on runways. Sometimes He is the pilot. Sometimes He has us land. In all cases it is perfect because of Jesus. If we miss the centerline by a bit, He moves the runway. We never miss when we are abiding in Him. Even if my attempts have less than optimum results, the runway is infinitely wide because of Jesus. Now we get to land the Space Shuttle on an aircraft carrier!!! Come on, how exciting is that? We get to do the impossible and there is no fear, none whatsoever! Check this out:
John 14:12 The Message (MSG) 11-14 “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.
Are you tired of crashing? Are you tired of avoidance maneuvers? Then give it all to Jesus. When He is the pilot, you get to do so much awesome stuff. You get to live in His reality which is your impossible. You get to ride with the most amazing, loving, good, kind, giving…infinitely indescribable…Groom. You get to be wed to your maker. You get to dream with the creator. You are no longer limited by yourself but set free in Him. Stop trying to land on millimeter sized runways. Stop living by the law. Step into Grace. Give up Avoidance Manuevers (sin management) and instead go land on an aircraft carrier with a 747. That would be really cool.
Yay Jesus! Our greatest test pilot ever!