About forty-five minutes north of Atlanta, our stop to change planes, the pilot came over the intercom. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have just declared an emergency. Please follow the directions of your flight attendants as we will need your cooperation."
Suddenly, all talking ceased. We looked at one another as did many of the other passengers in the seats ahead of us. As I recall, the flight attendants walked up and down the aisle once to reassure everyone that we had great pilots and were in good hands, never losing the smile on their faces, then sat down and strapped themselves in. We heard a cough or two which seemed like a signal because once again people began to talk, in a much quieter and calm way than I would have expected after such an announcement. I even heard a chuckle or two from somewhere behind us.
A lot of things ran through my head in the next forty-five minutes, but as my friend said, "There really isn't anything we can do about this. If we go down, we go down." Airliner crashes seldom leave survivors. So we sat and continued our talk as we had before, and so did everyone else. No tears, no screams, no panic of any kind at all. And on we flew.
Just before we reached Atlanta, the pilot spoke again. All other planes had been told to circle and wait until we were safely on the ground. We were to all keep our seat belts fastened and remain in our seats as the plane landed and came to a stop. (If we made it down safely, he did not say but most of us were thinking) we would not be taxiing to the gate. Instead, an emergency crew would circle the plane. When we were deemed "safe" to be in close contact with other planes and passengers, we would approach the gate and disembark. And that is exactly what happened. We landed in a normal manner and came to a complete stop in the middle of the runway. We all watched out the windows as three or four trucks, including a fire engine, circled us at a snail's pace. Then they moved off to the side and we taxied to the gate and unloaded. Somewhere along the way we heard that it had all been because of a faulty indicator light that showed that the plane was on fire. Evidently, it was not.
But what if it had been? Let me tell you something, folks. When you have a near miss, you get real serious about your life. Even though you think you have been doing just fine, suddenly every mistake you ever made comes to mind. And you find yourself thinking this, "Have I done enough?"
And the unequivocal answer is, "No. I haven't." Not because I don't try. Not because I don't do the best I can every day. But because the best I can do is still not good enough. At some point, we have to learn to trust God's grace. Too often, young people "raised in the church," listening to prayers about how "we sin all the time," have been made to feel that there is no hope. That they must try and try and try and no matter what they will still fall short and they just might not make it to Heaven. Well, you know what? You will fall short, but that does not mean you won't make it to Heaven. God did not leave us in a hopeless situation, and He certainly didn't dangle an unreachable carrot in front of us for His own amusement. In fact, His word speaks of hope constantly--one of the biggest differences between Christianity and other religions. We consign grace to Jesus on the cross and fail to see it in his example of overcoming, of praying, of knowing the Word so well it springs to our lips constantly. We fail to see it in the help of the Spirit as we live and the offer of mercy when we fall.
You will not be perfect, but you can overcome, you can grow and get better, and even when you slip, you can be forgiven. If the plane starts falling out of the sky, you don't have to scramble around trying to ask forgiveness for every single thing you think you have done wrong lately before it hits the ground. Let the "God of hope" fill you with peace. Trust Him and say, "I tried, Lord. I did my best. Please take me home."
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Rom 15:13).