God teaches in mysterious ways. Sometimes, the lesson comes in a still small voice. Today, it came in the roar of six fighter jets flying over my home town during the Great Maine Air Show.
The US Navy’s Blue Angels, a precision flight team, performed here this weekend and between the air show and the rehearsals beforehand, they taught me some important lessons.
1. There’s no sleeping when the Angels are flying
The practices for this show started on a day I was home from work with the flu. I live close enough to the flight path that the roar of the six F/A-18 Hornets jolted me out of bed.
No way anyone can sleep through the overflight of a half-dozen Hornets. And I thought about Elijah on the mountain, waiting for God (1 Kings 19). We all know about the great wind and earthquake and fire that did not contain God. God came, in many of our traditional translations, in a “still, small voice.”
A Bible translator I once met said that the traditional translation might not quite accurately represent the verse (although it makes sense in context). This translator argued that God doesn’t come in a voice that is still and small. Instead, God comes to Elijah in a voice that makes things still and small. A voice like a flight of fighter jets.
If the translator is right, don’t have to worry about sleeping through God’s call. I might have trouble staying on my feet when God speaks. But I won’t miss it.
2. The Angels aren’t where the noise is
The Blue Angels fly so fast their sound trails them by a lot. If you’re watching from a distance, as I was during the show today, the only way to catch them emerging from behind buildings or trees is to look about 60 degrees ahead of where you hear their engines.
And even then, you might need to look back and forth across 180 degrees if nearby buildings are catching an echo, creating the impression of jets where there’s really just a resonant surface. Where the sound is coming from might not be where the Angels are at all.
Like lots of life, the noise isn’t where the real action is. You have to learn where to look. And be careful of mistaking a resounding gong for the real thing.
3. Look for the Angels, not their trails
Most of the time, I find jets in the sky by tracking the “con” trails of condensed vapor they leave behind. That won’t work with the Blue Angels. The Angels leave trails only when they want to — great cinematic puffs of vapor that shout “We’re here!” The rest of the time, they fly clean. You can’t find the Angels by looking for their trail. Look for the Blue Angels themselves instead.
Lesson 4 came courtesy of Pathway Vineyard Pastor Kyle Gabri this morning.
4. The more you practice, the tighter the formation
Blue Angel formations look tight from the ground. They actually are much tighter.
A F18 is not quite 45 feet wide. In formation during performances, the Blue Angels maneuver as close as 6 inches apart while flying at remarkable speeds.
How do they dare?
They begin, Kyle said, by practicing the formations much further apart. Same moves, just more distance. Then, as they become more skilled with the maneuvers, they begin running them closer together. Eventually, they fly with wings all but touching.
Kind of like us in our Christian lives. We don’t dare maneuver in close proximity with others until we’re pretty well practiced in the moves.
And one more thing I learned after church today: there actually have been “paint scrapers” — the aerial equivalent of a fender bender — among the practicing Angels. These incidents don’t knock the fighter jets out of the sky. They just remind the pilots to get back on course. Like immediately.
God came to me today in the roar of six fighter jets with 4 lessons about Christian living. How is God speaking to you right now about your Christian life?