It (God’s will) is mysterious and terrifying, like the unfathomable depths of the ocean, full of wonders and dangers.
Jerry Sittser – The Will of God as a Way of Life
I love listening to fighter pilots tell stories, especially Navy pilots. Years ago a former pilot and friend described a phenomenon common to almost every naval aviator at least once in his career. He called it being “in the barrel.” It goes something like this – it’s a stormy night, fifteen foot seas, visibility zero, and the pilot is trying land his craft on a bobbing postage stamp on a black ocean in the black of night. Conditions worsen; fuel drops below the red line. The plane quickly descends and the pilot becomes convinced he will not make it. In his mind and heart he’s dead or soon will be. In that moment something terribly wonderful happens – the pilot faces his own death. A few seconds later several tons of steel drops on the carrier deck, the cable catches and the engines shut down. He’s safe…. safe….but never again the same man.
Joseph had a similar experience. He’s locked up in prison, away from friends, good food, and civilization. Two years have passed since the cup bearer promised to put in a good word with Pharaoh; now he’s alone (except for his fellow prisoners and the guard) and probably thinking “This is it. This is where God wants me to be the rest of my life. So be it.” One day he wakes up, gets a bath, new clothes and an audience with the Grand Puba. Later that day he’s promoted to second in command of the most powerful country on the planet.
Watch this clip from the movie “V for Vendetta”. Evey, played by Natalie Portman, has just experienced imprisonment by what she believes is the dictatorial regime who is looking for the masked freedom fighter “V”. Every day she is tortured, and then asked where V is located. She doesn’t’ reveal his hideout, even when threatened with certain death. Listen carefully to the dialogue.
Why are pain and agony such intimate bedfellows when it comes to facing our fears? Why does God allow such trials? In those times He seems as much a ferocious flirt as He is fascinating. Remember the verse from Habakkuk from my last post:
Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
I didn’t mention that was neslted in God’s description of the tribulation Israel would soon experience for the next 400 years.
As Jerry Sittser states, He is both mysterious and terrifying. But above all, He is good. What happens to the pilots who survive their trip through the barrel? Many become innovative entrepreneurs with no fear of failure. What happened to Joseph? He led Egypt with full confidence (in God) through the greatest famine in history. In the movie clip V tells Evey that she has faced her own death, to commit to it, and remember it. He reminds her that when faced with fate she found something more important than her own life, a reason beyond her own existence.
Jesus said the same thing:
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)
When we’re in the barrel, we want to be anywhere else. Unfortunately, when God ferociously flirts with us – it’s where we need to be to learn what we need to learn. And after we end up on the deck, engines off, our hands clutching the stick, and teeth clenched – we too will have an opportunity to realize that we have no need to fear. From that moment on we become very dangerous to the Illusionist, and he knows it.
Read the story of Joseph with your son and discuss the barrel. The more he understands that his Father in heaven also flirts ferociously, the more prepared he will be for the storm. For as Evey says, “God is in the rain.”