News from the Tennessee Valley Religion
SATURDAY, MAY 21, 2005

James L. Evans

Who will be sitting in the pilot's seat?

A recent Steve Goodier essay begins with a story about an instructor and student landing a small airplane. The plane hits the runway and bounces repeatedly until finally stopping. The instructor turns to the student and says, "That was a terrible landing you just made!" The student then replies. "Me? I thought you were landing the plane."

This humorous but potentially disastrous story raises important questions: Who is in charge of the plane? Who is steering the ship? Who is in control of our journey and will bring us to a safe landing when we arrive at our final destination? I am afraid that a once-popular license plate epitomizes the attitudes of many people when it comes to who is piloting the ship. That license plate states "God is my co-pilot."

Can God be a co-pilot? How can two drive a car or conduct an orchestra? How can two have the lead role in the school play or have first chair in the school band? How can two CEOs pull in different directions and accomplish company goals? How can the football team have two quarterbacks?

God is infinitely qualified to pilot the ship and steer our journey if we will let him. We would do well to stop trying to be co-pilots and to find our proper role as passengers. The passenger in the plane does not tell the pilot what flight plan to file.

One of my favorite New Testament stories is an account about who is in control. The 12 disciples were in a boat attempting to row across the Sea of Galilee. They encountered a fierce storm and after several hours were not too far from where they started. Their simple journey became a long and arduous ordeal. We can identify because our simple journeys often become storms that leave us weary, wet, cold, afraid, uncertain, exhausted.

'Don't be afriad'

The pilots of the boat were not doing very well. Then Jesus appeared walking on the water and gave one of the most common assurances in Scripture: "Don't be afraid."

Can you see the lesson here? The pilot is not the one who has his hand on the oar. The real pilot is the one who can walk on what the oar pushes through. The pilot is not the one who feels the wind in his face and is afraid. The real pilot is the one who creates the wind and controls it at his beck and call. The pilot is not the one who sits within the confines of a boat on the surface of the storm. The real pilot is the one does not need a boat to rise above the ill effects of storms and their attributes.

Maybe your piloting skills are lacking and you've had some rough landings recently. Maybe your boat is in a storm and even though you row and row, you do not make much progress. Maybe you've been a co-pilot for a long time and your flight plan and God's flight plan do not match up. Maybe you're tired and afraid and lonely and uncertain and its time to allow the real pilot to have his turn flying the plane. Maybe it's time for you to give your pilot's license to the real pilot who knows how to bring you to a safe landing.

Josh Head, pastor of Decatur Christian Church, is one of several local ministers writing religion columns for THE DAILY. For more information, call Melanie Smith on Tuesdays or Wednesdays at 340-2468.

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