Letting go and letting God brings resurrection-peace

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, April 20, 2011

In the sky above Cochrane two aircraft have created a contrail cross, a sign of peace when despair is transformed into hope by letting go and letting God.
Photo by Warren Harbeck

Pilot, aerospace visionary and former flight instructor Sandford “Sandy” McLeod taught me an important lesson the other day about Jesus’ last words on the cross, commemorated by Christians around the world as part of this week’s Good Friday services.

Sandy and I were reflecting on the flight of eagles and how they are buoyed up in a trusting relationship with the invisible air beneath their wings, a metaphor for human trust in God’s invisible Holy Wind see my Apr. 6 column).

Indeed, Sandy has taught me much about how the visible, tangible experiences of flight reveal the invisible, as so movingly captured in his favourite poem, “High Flight,” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (see my June 30, 2010 column):

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings . . . Where never lark, or even eagle flew – And . . . Put out my hand and touched the face of God.”

Sandy’s latest lesson for me was about letting go and letting God.

New pilots must learn to trust their aircraft’s technology and relationship with the air, he said.

For example, if an aircraft drops below a certain speed, it loses lift and starts plunging groundward, a truly scary white-knuckle moment.

The temptation, Sandy said, is for panicked student pilots to grip the steering wheel evermore tightly. But this only makes matters worse, as the ground gets closer and closer.

What they need to do, he said, is totally let go of the wheel, increase speed, and let the plane do what it’s designed to do: to level off on its own in a comfortable relationship with the wind beneath its wings.

“In automatic pilot mode, the aircraft is equipped with a gyro sensor that will automatically control the tail to direct the aircraft in whatever direction needed for straight and level flight.

“All the pilots have to do is take their hands off the wheel and leave the aircraft alone. After falling and turning, it will come straight and level on its own. It’s a dramatic, breath-stopping maneuver, as some aircraft can suddenly drop several hundred feet before they begin to right themselves. In short, it requires total trust.”

Then he brought me down to earth where life sometimes seems out of control and we wind up in our own emotional tailspins.

“In much the same way,” he said, “people, when in deep personal trouble, must totally let go to find their ultimate peace and happiness. Without faith in God and the gift of letting go, there is only panic and despair. Overcoming the fear of letting go is the price.”

And at that moment I understood Jesus’ final words from the cross in a new light. He, too, let go and let God – the Son of God and Designer of creation Himself, who, as the Bible says, “for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,” spoke trustingly, confident of life after death:

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

© 2011 Warren Harbeck

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