Am I Still Flying in the Right Direction?

“…but even when I am afraid, I keep on trusting you. I praise your promises! I trust you and am not afraid. No one can harm me. —Psalm 56:3-4 [CEV]

Hello friends and family, I am honored to have you as part of my devotion readers! This weekend I am musing about outer-space, trajectory, and staying on course. I love stories from NASA and space, a world of wonders we have touched with just a pinky-finger! Even the Psalmist declared its vastness and Job expounded on its unlimited space. Yet, in those tiny areas where we are learning and exploring, there is a great lesson for us in our daily lives grounded down here on the planet.

In fact, we experienced such a lesson a few days ago while up in the Santa Fe mountains. We explored and hiked trails and then wanted to culminate the day with Jemez Falls. That’s when our perfect route fell apart. Well, let’s say our “spaceship commander—GPS—whom we sometimes call ‘Bernice’ (in this case she got a different name for about 5 minutes) took us down the weirdest circuitous roads that led to STOP-Private Property! Really, I said to her (sometimes I think she is human or at least humanoid) this is a major site in New Mexico and how can it be hidden like this? Of course Bernice did not answer until we turned around, went out to the main road and then she started her incessant chatter taking us back to the Jemez Falls Campground. We had already passed that and we figured it was just the campground, but we did not read everything on the signs! I suspect once we passed it the first time, Bernice did her thing to find us another way. Of course she doesn’t know Private Property from little green men on Mars, but we didn’t listen to her first instructions—ooops!

This all sounds funny but, in the end, we had to admit our own fault in not reading the sign at the campground. Those directions would have saved 30 minutes and a lot of jostling around in the vehicle on back roads!! I admit I should have apologized to Bernice, but she went silent on us, probably sniggering at we humans in her electronic world.

Imagine you are an astronaut and you’ve just been launched into space. In this vast dark wilderness, how do you find your way? To whom do you put your trust? I thought you might like this story from Apollo Astronaut Captain Alan Bean. In a news conference he was asked how test pilots evaluate problems they encounter on flights. The answer astounded the journalist who asked the question and when I read this I was, too. Bean told them that when something goes wrong, they simply ask, “Is this thing still flying in the right direction?” And if the answer is yes, there is no need to overreact. Really? I mean, even in our vast atmosphere before you punch the wall into outer space how can you find directions? I’ve flown enough on airplanes to know there are no signs up in the skies!

Captain Bean continued with more information to his audience. He told about the takeoff of Apollo 12. You may remember how harrowing that was because it was hit hard by lightning. In fact, the astronauts relayed how the entire console began to glow with orange and red trouble lights. Of course, the first reaction was the huge temptation to “Do something!” So they did, but not what you’d think. They simply asked themselves, “Is this thing still flying in the right direction?” They let the lights glow as they addressed the problems one-by-one, as they were trained and you know the rest of the story: Apollo 12 made it to the moon just as planned.

I cannot imagine the “pressure cooker” situation in that capsule! I mean, can you sweat in space? Do those sweat drops fly around the cockpit? Obviously this isn’t the time to “phone a friend!” But the lesson here is not to overreact, duh. How many times have you been in a situation that you felt you could not control and your reaction made it worse? That’s where adopting the astronauts calm and steadiness helps.

In those times we need to ask ourselves, “Am I still flying in the right direction? Am I still doing God’s will?” If the answer is yes, then there’s no need to panic. We simply address our issues one-by-one and stay on course. That doesn’t mean this is easy to do, in fact, not at all. When the Apollo 12 team were queried, they were honest in replying, “yep, it was tense, and we would be lying if we’d say we had no fear” but they used their training to help overcome those tense moments and the fear that trickled into their minds and hearts.

The science and engineering of space flight is powerful. In 1969 we landed on the moon, something no one thought could be accomplished. Since then, with grit and determination, look at the exploration we have done in space, what we’ve learned and what space has taught us for medical issues, materials, etc. Have you ever watched the International Space Station fly over—it’s nothing short of amazing. Right-on trajectory as men and women commanders of this flying-laboratory jet through the outer reaches of space.

Well, God has a trajectory, too, and it is always perfect, never off-course, and dependable 24/7! When you are wondering if you’re “flying in the right direction” call on God, he will help you stay on course and live the plan that he has designed for your faith-life. As you ‘fly’ through life remember that fear and panic are not a part of God’s plan. Instead, take the actions of the astronauts, trust the “instruction manual” and you’ll always find your path home!