"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Who is Your Parachute?

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Matt“Speed”, “Cameras”, “Eject!” With that final word the test engineer in the cab of a truck speeding down an airport runway flicked a button that fired a rocket motor. That motor lifted a pilot-escape seat off the truck bed 150 metres into the air, where a parachute was supposed to inflate, gently lowering the test dummy to the ground. We were evaluating improvements to an older pilot-escape seat used by the Snowbird Air Demonstration Team.

We carefully planned every detail of our testing, as each test run was very costly. We worked hard to create around us a reality that made success highly likely. On that day, when a Discovery Channel film crew was present, that careful reality fell apart. The parachute did not open, the dummy did not leave the seat, and the whole mass arced high in the air and then crashed onto the concrete runway, showering bits of dummy, ejection seat and parachute over a wide area.

That engineering test can teach us something about our spiritual lives. While your life may have been going along without a hitch, like our test program to that point, eventually something fails. Like our test dummy, instead of a soft landing you and everything around you comes crashing down. There is nothing left but pieces. Crawling out of the wreckage we emerge dishevelled and disoriented and uncertain which way is the road home. These times always remind me of Dorothy emerging from her cyclone-swept farmhouse to say, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

For an engineer, a badly failed test yields more information than one that spectacularly succeeds. By studying the failure and putting the pieces back together, you gain wisdom to design better and stronger systems for the future. In our lives after loss, disease or a failed relationship has left us an emotional wasteland, that same process works. God uses our darkest times to help us to learn, to grow and to become stronger. As Kipling wrote (in a poem known to all engineers) failure is followed by rebuilding, “That we – by which sure token, We know Thy ways are true – Because of being broken, May rise and build anew. Stand up and build anew!”

Our comfort, in the midst of those frightening times, is that we are living out a cycle experienced by all God’s people throughout time. Understanding that this very Godly cycle of * creation – destruction – chaos – recreation * applies to each of our lives helps to keep us anchored when everything becomes storm-tossed and grey. Even in the midst of a Kansas moment when we emerge a little dizzy, knowing that we are part of an ageless cycle that all God’s people live through brings comfort and assurance.

For the great sufferer Job, who lost it all but was blessed in the end, this cycle is plain to see. From flocks and family – to the death of everyone he loved – to the ash heap with a potshard – and back into blessing, Job’s story retells the cycle we have all lived. The critical thing missed in Job’s happy ending is Job himself. While he receives blessings, flocks, gold rings and many children these things all come to a man who has already lost it all. Can the happy ending of Job erase the laughter of each dead child or the touch of a beloved wife who is now no more? These things will be a part of Job for as long as he draws breath. His new strength comes, not from forgetting the loss, but by rebuilding to include the loss.

Our real spiritual growth comes out of those Kansas moments when everything we had planned now needs to be discarded and built anew. Out of the pain and loss of that chaos, God will bring us into reorientation and help us to find the stronger spirituality that exists through the loss. Our comfort comes from knowing that however long we may spend in Kansas, days, months or years, that re-creation will come with God’s help. Like our test dummy, smashed into pieces that we then picked up, repaired and re-assembled, God will likewise pick up the pieces of our life and gently reassemble them. It is through that loss, and through the failure, that we grow into the people that God calls us to be.


Written by sameo416

June 17, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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