My youngest son, Sam, turned fourteen in March. Since he has long talked about being a pilot, we decided to give him a “discovery flight” for his birthday. You go up in a small plane with a flight instructor and you get a feel for what it would be like to take lessons. You can even take the controls while you are up there. It sounded fantastic, and I booked it for his birthday. But two sad things happened. First, the weather on his birthday was terrible, so we finally did it just last week, over a month late. The other sad part was that you are allowed to bring a passenger and that passenger was me.
We climbed into the little plane, donned the microphone headsets, buckled up, and then the instructor handed Sam the key. He has never even cranked a car engine, mind you. Our cars are push button, and the golf cart, which he does frequently drive, is electric. I was surprised that the ignition and the primary on/off buttons were on the student side of the plane. The instructor remarked on the length of Sam’s legs, and that he’d need to be mindful to not bump his knees into the flight controls. In addition, the backseat is angled down in such a way that you cannot see over the dashboard. None of this made me feel relaxed. Then we taxied out and took off. The instructor warned us that even though it was a majestic day with a light breeze, that it would be a little choppy. Once airborne we began bumping our way for the city. The plan was to fly over the boys’ school.
We’d only been up there a couple minutes when the instructor handed over the controls. Almost immediately, we angled abruptly to the left. The instructor calmly told Sam that he’d need to keep the plane level using the gauge that depicted the horizon. I wanted to issue a reminder that despite being a good six inches taller than the instructor, Sam is just 14 and had never to my knowledge even flown a plane in a video game. I kept silent though, at least for a few minutes. But my heart was racing and I was making anxious noises like a neurotic old woman. I love roller coasters. I have no fear of heights or of flying. But those facts did not matter when I was up there with my baby boy at the controls. Finally, I did the ruinous thing. Into my microphone I asked the instructor, “Can you please take the controls back now?” After ten days I think Sam has forgiven me for wrecking his birthday present, but I hope I have not killed his dream. I have solemnly promised to never again go on a training flight, and honestly it’s an easy promise to keep.
Last week I wrote about how in my daily devotional from Paul David Tripp I have the simple reminder in all caps that God is my “CREATOR, REDEEMER, COMPANION.” This week when I was flipping through, I saw that I also have more words written underneath: “His grace rescues, empowers, transforms.” That’s a lot of theology in just 8 words. I am so grateful to be able to so easily remind myself of these truths. But the word that stuck out this week was empower.
In Philippians 4, Paul tells us: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” And in John 15, Jesus himself says: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
This same truth is framed more poetically in Psalm 121:1-2
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
All of these verses point to the fact that it is God who empowers. I cannot empower Sam to wake up in the morning, much less to be a pilot. But I can give him opportunities to learn and I can refrain from sabotaging his lesson.
Elizabeth Elliot said a little girl who listened to her radio broadcast wrote to her and said, “You make me brave.” Elliot said it was one of the nicest things she ever heard.
Who are you making brave? Who are you pointing to the One who rescues, empowers and transforms?
P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to all the sweet mamas I know, and make sure you tell the women who invest in you as a mother-like figure thank you as well.
P.S.S. When we were leaving the little airport, the flight instructor told a very ticked-off Sam, “You did great despite your passenger.”