I remember the day my father-in-law died like it was yesterday. He had collapsed in Miami and was rushed to a hospital, but we decided my husband and his sister should fly into Fort Lauderdale (where he lived), rent a car, and drive down. In all the confusion, my mother-in-law arranged for a family friend to pick them up at the airport. After many frantic phone calls to the airline, I was finally connected to a supervisor who listened to my request that the airline notify my husband of the new plans. The supervisor denied my request, telling me there was nothing that could be done since the plane was in-flight. With that forcefulness and determination that we find in a crisis, I notified the supervisor that my father had been an Air Traffic Controller and therefore, I was aware that the controllers are in constant communication with planes throughout their flights as they fly from one air space grid into another. My message was delivered.
I got to thinking the other day that as Christians, we are like Air Traffic Controllers. We have people flying in and out of our air space all the time. Some stay and land. Others are taking off. Still others are just passing through and aren't under our watch and care for very long at all. Like ATC's it is important for us to recognize our role and responsibility for each person that God brings into our air space.
An ATC has to guide planes in for landings and monitor anything that could jeopardize that landing. We too, are called to help those who are seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ into a "safe landing" in faith. And once they land, we need to guide them to a safe place to be fueled and receive maintenance.
Then there are those who are "taking off". They also need guidance, support, and a watchful eye so they know when it is safe to take off, know that they aren't going to fly right into another plane, and know they have the right course setting and air speed.
There are different sizes and types of "aircraft" in our air space and we need to understand them. The conditions needed for a jumbo jet are different from that of the small and sleek corporate jet.
Some aircraft are just passing through and get handed off to the next guy. Perhaps we are just planting a word of faith, role modeling, showing a kindness, sharing a moment... before they continue on their course.
Sometimes we need to order up an escort of fighter jets to scope out an aircraft that doesn't belong in our space or appears to be threatening an unarmed plane. There are spiritual battles to be fought for those who God appoints to our air space and to the need to protect the air space God has given us.
Or how about the times we need to drop everything and focus on that craft that is in trouble? We need to rally all the resources available to help that plane so it doesn't crash or if it does, to make sure there are as few victims as possible.
When I was a kid, I heard my dad telling about a plane that had gone missing late one night. Apparently, the plane landed but then lost all power. The plane couldn't contact the tower, and the tower had no idea where this plane was and what happened. Another plane finally alerted the control tower that it was there, just sitting at the end of a runway. It seems hard to believe that they could "lose" a plane, but they did. We too, have those who for whatever reasons, fall off our radar screen. And like Jesus taught, we need to leave the 99 and go find that one that is lost.
12"If a shepherd has one hundred sheep, and one wanders away and is lost, what will he do? Won't he leave the ninety-nine others and go out into the hills to search for the lost one? 13And if he finds it, he will surely rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn't wander away! 14In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father's will that even one of these little ones should perish. --Matthew 18:12-14
For some of us, the air space we have been assigned is like LaGuardia....a hectic pace and lots of traffic. For others of us, comes a slower pace and less traffic. But we are designed to work together, to make the skies friendly for all who fly them!