Here’s a story that I just find amazing. Tragic, and I tell it with tremendous reverence and respect, for many lost their lives here… and improvements in safety resulted to benefit all of us, but it is nonetheless amazing.
On December 29, 1972 or thereabouts… a light bulb… a little green light no bigger than you would use for your Christmas tree, blew out.
That light bulb was intended as a safety device, indicating when the landing gear nosewheel of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401, on final approach from New York into Miami International Airport, was properly deployed and locked into place. Because it did not light, the captain (pilot) and crew did not take the risk of landing, but decided to change the bulb instead, as they also tried physically to see if the nosewheel was down or not.
That decision was not the problem. That wasn’t a bad decision at all. The problem was… this light bulb… changing this light bulb… became the overwhelming focus of all attention by the flight crew in these critical minutes as they bypassed the airport, and the bulb refused to seat properly into the switch. Perhaps that should have absorbed ONE person, the co-pilot actually attempting the installation. But it captured the focus of him, the pilot, and the engineer as well.
So, when a control yoke was accidentally bumped, and the autopilot’s command to maintain a 2000 foot altitude got switched off, and the control yoke slipped into a slightly downward position slowly decreasiing their altitude… no one noticed. The light bulb still hadn’t clicked into place, and it was too dark to see the nosewheel directly. Foot by foot, they inched towards the ground until proximity alarms notified them that they were about to hit the swamps of the Florida Everglades below them. They were unable to recover in time. While 75 souls survived, 101 did not.
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A little while ago I wrote of “Aglets”, of the enemy’s strategy of trying to “throw us off our game” in seeking and following the life and path that the Lord lights up to walk with(in) us. Temptation, sin, in the enemy’s arsenal, has a two-wave payoff for him. This is especially true for a Christian who may be unclear about what his agenda (and God’s agenda) truly is.
Without getting bogged down in a lot of hassle and detail here, I’m just going to say a thing, and if it rings true for you and your Spirit affirms it, that’s fine. If not, cast it aside.
But, for myself, God’s agenda is to love us, and embrace us in such a relationship of intimacy that we respond with reflection of His love back to Him, and we refract His love outwards towards others. We focus on the joy of intimate relationship with Him… Jesus in us, we in Him, together we in the Father, Holy Spirit indwelling… such that His will becomes our own. In and as that happens, our gaze upon others becomes the communion of mutual sacredness, as we grow to love others as He loves us.
The unique feature to such a worldview is, our gaze is always focused on Him, or on others. We know and we rest in our reliance on His provision for us. As we become filled with life, and learn truly to live, our words and acts become His, and those of the Father. We learn to love with His heart.
Right… so… the enemy’s agenda? To take all that… NOT.
Just that simple. The enemy is not nearly so concerned with “getting us to do BAD things”… as it is simply to focus on ourselves, love ourselves, please ourselves, pay attention to ourselves… and become so myopic as to shadow and darkness we never think of looking towards Love Himself, or refracting any outwards at all.
God wants us loving outwards. The enemy wants us desiring inwards. It’s about that simple.
So… it really doesn’t matter much to him if he gets somebody to commit murder, cheat on their wife, or swipe a server’s tips from a cafe table… as long as temptation can get someone to think about pleasing themselves alone, treating God like an absentee landlord, and treating other people as objects for their gratification. Another way to put it, his agenda is to entice us to violate our own conscience, without a lot of regard for the content of the violation.
He gets a “boomerang” effect, a “double tap” out of this if… first, he can entice someone do harm to themselves or another, and second, if he can get them to feel hopelessly ashamed, guilty, and defensive about it. Then he can not only leverage people against loving relationships through successful temptation to the FIRST sin, but that secondary rebound effect can alienate caring relationships even further.
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So what has this got to do with Flight 401?
Bottom line, the light bulb was important, yes. That blown out bulb was a bad thing, the light not coming on rightly prevented a whole planeload of passengers from arriving in Miami’s terminal on time because the landing had to be bypassed. Right. But the light bulb was being dealt with, could have safely been dealt with as a matter of due course in operating the craft safely.
THAT is where this went so wrong. The bulb didn’t just become a part of operating the craft safely. Somehow the bulb became the overarching task and mission of the entire flight crew, RATHER than continuing to operate the craft safely. This single wrong element, this bulb, became sufficient distraction to draw everyone’s gaze from the real task at hand, and tragedy resulted.
All too often, conscientious Christians and others of good will and conscience, do something wrong, offend someone, fail to meet their own (or others’) standards of acceptable conduct… and get utterly hung up there. They can become obsessively fixated in guilt over what they’ve done. They may become hypervigilant against ever experiencing similar feelings again. They can become so concerned about ever committing “sin” that they avoid engaging any one or any thing in any situation where they do not feel they have absolute control.
Ironically… the fault of “scruple”, the misplaced FEAR of potential sin, can be as strong a deterrant to actually living and doing in the will of God, as wanton recklessness itself.
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So what am I saying? That we should never examine ourselves or our conscience? That we should just live a wild laissez-faire lifestyle of license without conscience or accountability? That, as some people argue about those who focus primarily on the grace and love of God, since we are “covered by the Blood” anyway, we should just go do anything we feel like at any time, because after all, what the heck?
Um, no… none of that. But scruple doesn’t assure any greater union with the will of God than does license. Rather than constant anxiety and fear of offending God through our frailty, I find three stratagems far more effective.
First, trust to the relationship between the self and God. Our loving King Father is not going to let us get far beyond our legitimate boundaries without calling loudly to us. The conscience is quite a reliable interface between us and Our Father and Lord.
Second, when our will conflicts with Our Loving King Father, yield to Him. “Obedience is better than sacrifice”, and He means this. For one thing, um… He’s God, and in a battle of wills or anything else, He’s gonna win, as long as we don’t leave the arena. For the other thing, He’s a loving Father and perfectly willing to deal with us in whatever way we demand, whether as prodigal returning to celebration, or defiant brat hauled home by the collar. (I’ve been both… trust me on this.)
Third, deal with past sins the same way He does… forget them. Time absorbs into Him like water into blotting paper. It dries, and it’s gone. He embraces us, as we are, as we’ve been, as we will be.. utterly and totally. We may disappoint ourselves from time to time, but we NEVER.. EVER… disappoint Him. We can’t, we simply cannot surprise Him, and you have to be surprised to be disappointed. Did we stumble and fall? OK. Did He help us stand back up, brush us off, and help us process the experience? OK. Then, are we ready to walk on and carry on with our task in/with Him? Good! Let’s go!
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I refuse to get distracted by burnt out bulbs. I refuse to add icing and give a secondary payoff to the enemy when I’m careless or willful enough to stumble into one of his snares. THAT is not where grace is, where light is, or where I want to invest my limited time, breaths, and heartbeats.
I’d rather hold our wondrous Lord King Love Father’s hand, and truck on down the road.
How about you?