Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.
The lion has roared—
who will not fear?
The Sovereign Lord has spoken—
who can but prophesy?
- Amos 3:7-8
I wrote a little while ago about getting a driver’s license. As a college senior, I was signed up to go to flight school. I barely passed my flight physical, with a high resting pulse rate that barely squeezed by. My senior year, if I played my cards right, I would have my private pilot’s license by the end of the year. The Army would then send me to helicopter school and I only had to spend one additional year in the army to pay for the flight training.
I had admired and envied my uncle who had been an Air Force test pilot, turning down brigadier general in order to retire. With his private license, he was a member of a club and reserved one of the club’s planes whenever he visited the family farm. What might take us the entire day to drive, he could make the trip in a few short hours and no 18-wheeler trucks trying to push you off the road.
But then, God had different plans for me. I may have been sequestered in the engineering buildings, but within those walls, I was very active in college life, acting as an officer in the engineer student body, an officer in the engineering honorary society and president of one of the professional societies. I was also public relations officer for the Army ROTC. When I was not in class, I was writing articles for various college publications, writing technical papers for convention competition, or looking for a job, even though I had a military commitment.
What I mean about God having different plans is that my flying time was very limited. And whenever I had the time to fly, it was a hazy day.
When you are first learning how to fly, you need a clear day. The visibility must reach a fairly long distance, because it requires a lot of hours to become instrument qualified. We learned to navigate by recognizing land features. If we ever got lost, we could fly to a recognizable body of water or a highway. I was very good wearing the cone so that I only saw the instrument panel. As the instructor said, I seemed to be a natural at that. I was just never comfortable at everything else. I simply had so few good flying days. When those days happened, I had class from 8:00am until dark.
And when you could only get one day in the month where the air was clear, you would never reach any kind of proficiency.
One of the other helicopter pilot want-to-be candidates was also an engineering student, but he was not a scholarship student, and he took a light load of classes, finishing his degree in the summer. That meant he could watch the sky and even cut a class if it meant another day of flying. For me, classes came first.
During that year, I would look at the sky, like the picture about, and wonder if the sky was clear enough, even marginal. The photo above looked like a blue sky when I took the camera, but it really was not, as the photo shows. You could look along the horizon. If the horizon was hazy, that meant the visibility would not be acceptable. I became perturbed. I did not get angry with God. I sort of disconnected God with the weather and wondered why the weather was against me getting my license.
On the last time that I piloted an airplane, I walked into the instructor’s office on a hazy day, to see if it was at least marginal. It was really like the photo above, closer to pea soup than clear skies. As I talked to the instructor, an emergency call came in over the radio. A pilot was lost and about out of fuel. He had no way of finding the airport in the low visibility. The instructor told the control tower that we would fly to the pilot and guide him back. I was the pilot, and he would work the radio and call all the shots, since I was not instrument qualified. Since this was what I was best at doing, we would become a team. Up at altitude, what looked marginal from the ground was like being inside a cloud, with brief moments of seeing some of the ground. We found the pilot circling a small dirt strip about 50 miles from the proper airport. Okay, air traffic said the other plane was very close, but we only saw him as he finally made his landing. My instructor and I were both amazed that the other pilot could not see an air strip right beneath him. But then, he would have been stranded where there were no rental cars and no hotels until the skies cleared. We worked with air traffic radar out of Memphis, TN to pinpoint the lost pilot and us. The lost pilot was the only radar blip that was not identified by a transponder signal, on a different air traffic screen – requiring air traffic to constantly flip attention from one screen to another to avoid us crashing into each other, since we could not see past the wing most of the time. We then flew parallel to each other, but far enough away for air traffic to clearly know which blip was which. The scared pilot nearly wrecked his airplane upon landing due to the side wind being really bad. I had never crabbed into an airfield before, but I had studied the technique. It was strange looking past the instructor who had his hands folded across his chest, through the side window beyond him as I approached the strip, flying nearly perfectly sideways to account for the wind, since we were flying a small plane. Then at the point of one wheel touching, I whipped the plane around and pointed it down the runway. The instructor was impressed at my first attempt of crabbing without wrecking the plane. The instructor thought there was hope for me yet, but in the following weeks, the clouds came in and stayed. The army said that I had not made enough progress and dropped me.
On one hand, I miss flying, but now that I am more mature, I see that God controlled the weather so that I would take a different route after graduating college. God is indeed sovereign, and He reveals His plans to His prophets, as the Scripture says, or to each of us in God’s time. I thought flying could be a second career, but God had other plans, and His plans are always the best ones.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.