Last weekend Jan “kidnapped” me away to Julian, California (and not just because apple is my favorite kind of pie). We had a wonderful time, ate too much and enjoyed bird watching. Julian is a bird watcher’s paradise, and we were richly rewarded.
It was time to come home on Monday, but rather than follow the direct path back through Ramona or even the scenic route through Alpine, we decided to head home via Temecula. It was a beautiful day for a drive. The road took us through Warner Springs and to the little airport. The runway was lined with sailplanes (gliders).
The memories came flooding back as we pulled over and watched. When I obeyed the Gospel at age 14, my friends were completely underwhelmed. “Christians are boring,” was the general sentiment. “You can’t do anything. You can’t have any fun.” Their logic bothered me. First, I never understood how making foolish choices like getting stoned in an old van after the football game could be classified as “fun,” and second, I was sure they had never met the Jesus I knew. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Of course, there are Christians who are playing the “waiting game.” They endure this life with firm resolution while they wait for joy in heaven to come. Likewise, I know Christians who are trying to convince themselves that being miserable is, in fact, fun, and they are actively trying to spread their miserable Gospel to everyone. On the other hand, I see the true Gospel as liberating. I genuinely believe this is my Father’s world, and I want to satiate myself with Life. I want to be truly alive. I do not believe in the spectator life any more than I believe in spectator Christianity.
So the week I obeyed the Gospel, I started on a quest. I took on two paper routes and found a job working at a local pasture/airport. On the weekends, we pinned up the cows and used the field for towing gliders and making parachute jumps. My job was to hook up the lines from the tow planes to the sailplanes and then run along, holding up the glider’s wing until it was going fast enough to balance on its one wheel. I did all this in exchange for flying lessons at the end of the day.
Later that fall, the instructor stepped out of the sailplane, and before I had time to think about it, I was bounding down the runway behind the tow plane all by myself. It was way too quiet up there without the instructor shouting at me from the backseat, but there I was, high above and watching the world spread out below.
I went on to have many other adventures — mountain-climbing, sailing, scuba diving, skiing – the list is 43 years long, and I only truly regret the year I devoted to playing golf. (Missing a putt can nearly cost you your soul!)
Jan and I watched the planes taking off and landing. Then she smiled, handed me the leather flying jacket she bought me for Christmas, and I found myself strapped into the front seat of a Schweizer 2-32 (the same type of sailplane I soloed in more than four decades before). Left, right, then left again, we were wagging the rudder to signal the tow plane we were ready to go. Before I had time to think about it, we were airborne. I was a kid again, but some things never change: this is still my Father’s world!