The mystery of flight

There is mystery to this salvation of ours. I’m not a genius. Maybe if I were, I could decipher the intricate marriage of obedience, faith and grace in the saving of my soul. But, without those extra IQ points, I’ll fall back on story for explanation. When teaching simple human brains the complexity of the spiritual world, analogies or parables, serve best. Isn’t that right, Jesus?

A father gives his boy a birthday present.  It is a radio controlled model airplane. After ripping through the paper, the son’s eyes pop wide, his mouth an “O.” His father points out the various features of the model, but the son is impatient to open the box and get it into the air as soon as possible.

“Now, wait a minute,” the father says. “I’m afraid you’ll just wreck it if you rush into flying. I want you to study this manual tonight, and tomorrow after work we’ll take it out. These instructions will teach you how to fly.”

After the initial disappointment of failed immediate gratification, the son cheers to the prospect of studying the mechanics of flight. While waiting for his dad to return from work, he pours over the manual, familiarizing himself with the elevators and throttle. He practices with the controller and imagines his plane in the air.

As promised, the dad takes the plane and his son to a field, and unpacks the fragile toy. He places it on level ground and hands the controller to his son with a inquiring look, wondering if his son has done his homework. The son pulls out the antenna and positions his thumb to set the frequency. But instead of delight, his face cramps with frustration.

“Dad, this light is supposed to be on,” he explains.

“Did you put the battery in?” asks the father.

The son giggles. Relieved at his silly mistake, he retrieves the batteries from the car and inserts them into the controller. It powers on. With the tip of his tongue peaking out, he toggles through the various elements; ailerons, flaps, rudder. He taps the throttle and the plane surges forward through the grass. Round and round the grass the plane speeds, but the plane remains grounded.

“Dad, what am I doing wrong?” the son asks as he passes the controller to his dad. “You do it.”

But the father slowly shakes his head “No,” and hands the remote back. “I gave this to you, son. This is your plane. You studied the book and you know how to fly. The batteries are working and you have the power to fly. But YOU must make it fly.”

Sure, the father could have taken over and flown the little plane. But in doing so, his gift is no longer a gift. It becomes something he consumes on himself. It is only when the son takes flight and accomplishes what the gift was intended to do – fly – is the gift complete.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God… For we are God’s workmanship, created … to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-9

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