Monday, February 25, 2008

Night Flight

We climb through 10,000 feet and we point the Airbus A320 toward Montreal. Below, in the soft darkness of early evening, the lights of Chicago slide by. I take advantage of a quiet moment to enjoy the view from the flight deck. "Hey Dave, look over here," I call my first officer's attention to the view out my window. We're climbing out of the earth's shadow. "Now we can say we've seen the sun rise in the west." He smiles.

Then he draws my attention to the eastern horizon. "Wow," I eloquently state. "That's so awesome." The harvest moon is rising in shimmers of luminescent gold. Overhead the sky fades from crimson and dark blue to black as the brightest stars begin breaking through. "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers … " Psalm 8 echoes in my mind. I also recall something a friend once told me: "When we open ourselves to wonder, God can speak."

Soon we are at 37,000 feet and cruising towards the falling night. We move our chairs close to the front windscreen, our noses almost pressed against the glass inside the darkened cockpit — like staring into the world's largest aquarium. We begin to share a mutual sense of awe and amazement at the night sky.

"I think it's a little like that spider on my back porch," I muse. "My attempts to understand the universe are a little like that spider trying to comprehend my house, my yard, the surrounding city. How would he even be able to think of such things — it's beyond his capabilities." I pause to sip on a cup of hot tea. "And how does he perceive me as I loom over him. That must be like me trying to comprehend God."

"I don't know if I believe in God," Dave counters. I'm pleased that he is comfortable enough to express his doubts to me. "If we are God's children then wouldn't He be more obvious to us? Wouldn't He teach us His language for example, to guide us and help us? We do that with our own children."

I take another sip of tea, letting his response sink in. "That's a great question." I turn the thought over in my mind. "Does God have a language?" How would we even recognize it? How can I grasp this? I try to imagine myself as a newborn baby lying in a crib hearing, yet not comprehending, as my parents coo and aah and speak words of love.

The steam rises from my tea and fogs my glasses. Below, the complex web of Toronto's lights turn into softly diffused blurs of yellow and gold. The steam feels good on my face.

Does God have a language? Jesus is called "the Living Word." That must be significant. I know the Bible tells us in ancient days God spoke to us through the prophets, but in these last days by His Son (see Hebrews 1:1). I recall Jesus' new command, "Love one another … " The mist on my glasses slowly clears.

God is Love!

Is it possible that love is the very language of God? That love is not only the message but also the language that conveys the message? Marshall McLuhan once said "the medium is the message." Maybe I'm beginning to understand. Maybe God's love surrounds us as surely as warm blankets enfold the newborn baby. He surrounds us in constant whispers of sunsets, stars and warm tea. I want to reflect more on this, but the lights of Montreal are coming over the horizon and we are about to get busy again.

"Dave, that is one of the most profound things I've heard in a long while. I hope we can continue this another time." Dave nods. "Sure." Maybe he's a little surprised? He calls for the pre-descent checklist and we begin the landing preparations. As we gently glide towards the earth, I marvel as I observe stars setting in the east.

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