Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds,—and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there, I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air .... Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace Where never lark nor ever eagle flew— And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
[“High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee]
I think it’s quite probable that every pilot in the English speaking world — which probably means every pilot, since proficiency in English is a requirement for a pilot’s license worldwide — comes across, and is profoundly moved by John Magee’s poem “High Flight”. It succinctly captures the transcendental experience of freedom in having access to the vastness of the open skies. I certainly seem to experience a resurgence of nasal/optical allergies and a coughing spasm (not to be confused with strong emotion, wink, wink!) every time I read it!
Private pilots are particularly susceptible to the phenomenon of “hangar flying”, which is usually characterized by sitting in a coffee shop telling stories that begin with, “…and there I was at ten thousand feet, when…”. You will be relieved to know that I am resisting the temptation to regale you with some of mine, but I have them and if you want to hear some drop me a line!
The main point of the hangar flying is to emphasize the importance of training in how to handle unusual and potentially dangerous situations. Freedom can be exhilarating, but only if undertaken with the assurance that known risks have been minimized.
To change my metaphor slightly, if you are a kite you can only soar if you are securely anchored by the string connecting you to the person controlling you! Freedom comes with strings attached!
And you don’t have to think very long to realize that freedom is a choice. I don’t have to fly, I choose to fly, and because I make that choice the benefits are beyond description.
This same phenomenon happens in our spiritual lives.
One of the arguments I hear being offered in refusing to accept the claims of God on our lives is that it will take away our “freedom”.
It is hard to convince those people that what they characterize as “freedom” is just a mirage which is locking them into bad choices.
This is what I like to call “the evil of two lessers”. Yes, we have a choice, but all the options are bad! Paul the Apostle in his usual direct style describes this as being “slaves to sin”.
Now that’s depressing. Wouldn’t it be so much better to have an alternative reality in which all the choices are good?
Good news! We do!
Listen to the words of Jesus: “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:36 NLT
This is not only freedom from bad choices it is freedom to make choices within God’s will, and all of those choices are for our benefit!
"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
Those choices that are available in God’s will are the most rewarding, and Jesus is enthusiastic about letting us know they are available:
“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” John 14:13,14 NLT
In my simplistic way of thinking, God is hovering over every decision we are to make, saying “choose me!, choose me!”.
To paraphrase a thought by C.S. Lewis, God didn’t have to give us free will, but the fact that He did must mean that it was very important to Him. We each have the ability to make choices. Jesus frees us to make choices that are entirely within God’s will.
Why would you choose otherwise?
Enjoy your freedom, reach out and touch the face of God! No pilot’s license required!
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black
P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at https://salvationarmyconcordca.org/chronicle/