I’m really excited to share a short story written by a new friend of mine. Carl Walker is the founder of “En Gedi Retreat” located in Yampa, CO. I am grateful to Carl and his faithfulness to the Holy Spirit’s leading and directing. En Gedi is a retreat cabin for pastors who need a place to get away and rest in the beauty of the mountains. I am blessed to be spending three nights at the Lance Cabin while I “recalibrate” my soul and restore my intimacy with my Heavenly Father! After sharing a wonderful lunch with Carl today, I asked him to send me this “parable” so I could share it with all of you!
I just preached two days ago at Academy Christian Church on the need for us to do a “DTR” with Jesus and make sure we are followers rather than fans. You can listen to the message here: Academy Christian Church Media
I am thankful to Kyle Idleman for writing his book “Not a Fan” which really helped me prepare my message. And I’m also thankful to Carl for sharing his parable with me because it is a perfect follow up after Sunday’s teaching. I know this story will speak to you and challenge you in your walk with Jesus…
A man walks out onto a hilltop on a sunny day with white, billowy clouds slowly parading through the sky. He sees a hawk dancing from cloud to cloud, effortlessly and gracefully. He wonders to himself if it is possible for man to fly. He then sees an airplane cross the sky, and in it he can see a man up front, looking down at him.
He is a believer.
The man, excited about the possibility of flight, goes home to dream of it, talk with his friends about it on occasion, and even searched the internet to read a short synopsis of how an airplane actually defies the laws of gravity. He carefully studies each airplane as it crosses the sky. He even goes to an airport to watch them takeoff and land. He studies the fastest and largest aircraft, the most advanced aircraft with all the latest innovations. After a long while of procrastination, he goes to a fight school and pays for a one hour discovery flight, but the airplane is small, dirty, slow, and making it obey his every command was more difficult than he had anticipated. The flight actually made him a little uneasy and somewhat sick, and the instructor who took him showed him a large stack of books he would need to study for this endeavor, that made him nervous as well. This was more work than he had hoped for.
This man still had need for the secure feeling of dirt beneath his toes, his feet planted on the Earth. He is like a field grouse, flying only when the need arises, only when scared or forced into it, or when a sudden passion overcomes him to take another discovery flight. But he remains for the most of his life, amongst the bushes, walking on the ground.
Another man, who sat on the same hill, watched the same clouds later that day, and saw a hawk making the wind its slave, also wondered if man could fly. He also saw an airplane with a man in it. But as it flew away from him, he chased it. With all his might he ran to where the airplane was going. He arrived later that day, exhausted and hungry, to an airport. Putting aside his desire for rest and food he pressed his face against the steel mesh fence and yelled across the ramp to a pilot getting out of the airplane, “How do I become what you are?” The pilot, with a smile, pointed to a dust covered sign over a door… ‘Learn to fly here’ it said.
The man ran into the flight school, threw open the door and asked the instructor behind the counter, “Can you teach me to fly?”
“Yes,” the instructor replied, “When would you like to start?”
“Immediately,” the man replied, “Can we fly today, now?” he said hurriedly as he walked toward the window that cased the small, dirty, training airplane sitting on the ramp. “Is that it?” the man asked as if he was looking at a pile of gold, “Is that what will take me flying?”
“Yep” The instructor grinned, “not much to look at I sup…”
“It’s amazing,” the man interrupted, it was the only thing the man could summon to say as his nose pressed against the window.
“You know this flying thing is pretty expensive,” the instructor stated cautiously.
Without taking his eyes off the airplane the man replied, “I do not care about the cost, whatever it is, I will pay it.”
“And that stack of books over there,” the instructor pointed, “you are going to have to know pretty much every word in those books.”
“Fine,” the man replied, “I can read”.
“All right,” the instructor replied, “Let’s get you in the air”.
The man beat him to the door.
The first flight was exhilarating, terrifying, horrible, and sensational. He could not make the airplane do one thing he tried to make it do. It smelled of gas fumes and old candy bar wrappers, the radio chatter was constant and indistinguishable to his untrained ears, and the words and phrases they used he had never heard of, the instruments were a blur of endless changing numbers he could not control. When they landed he fell to his knees and vomited on the ramp, his head spinning from this new sensation called flight.
“Not bad for your first flight,” the instructor commented. “If you are still interested we could give it a few days and go again.”
“No,” The man replied as he got off his knees, “Let’s go first thing in the morning.”
So it began for this man: studying, flying, eating the air he dreamed of sliding through. His hand would write furious notes as his instructor spoke, straining every day to make sense of the wind, the words, and the instruments. His eyes a slave to the never ending stream of training manuals and books and regulations. And in all of it, finding what he had been looking for his whole life.
After weeks of studying at the airport, sleeping in the pilot lounge, flying twice a day, eating from a vending machine, his instructor asks, “Do you ever go home?”
It had only been a few weeks, but it seemed like such a distant memory to him, he had forgotten that he simply left his home with no concern at all, he was silent.
“Hey,” his instructor said again, snapping the man from his daze, “Where is your home?” He said slowly.
The man, looking out the window to the old beat-up training airplane. “There,” he whispers.
After more weeks of honing his skills and racking his brain for every ounce of energy it will give him, he lands and his instructor tells the man to pull the airplane to the side of the runway. The man complies. The instructor looks at him as he opens the door and steps outside onto the ramp with the propeller still whirling away “Time to solo!” he screams over the wind noise, “take her for a few times around the pattern by yourself.”
The man’s eyes widen, his blood turns ice cold as he sweats profusely, and he cannot speak.
“You’ll be fine!” the instructor yells, “You’re ready!”
He turns the airplane back onto the runway, his heart about to explode out of his chest, his mind a fury of checklists, emotion, fear…unknown. He pushes the throttle forward and the airplane accelerates down the runway, lurching into the sky.
He is a disciple.
He spends the rest of his life in a wild, endless pursuit of what he has found. It never ceases to amaze him that he can control an airplane. His home is the air. The earth to him is simply a place to get fuel for his beloved airplane. He is never unaware of the danger of his pursuit, but would rather die up here then be forced to live as if his legs were his only mode of transportation. With every passing year he flies bigger and better airplanes, each one its own challenge and joy. And yet he would still be just as happy if he were still flying his first training airplane. He is like an eagle, born to the wind, forever looking toward the sky even when perched on a branch. He becomes the envy of those on the ground who watch him soar, but yet, he still sees himself as the young man with his face pressed against the fence with no skill, no experience, no glamour, just a desire to become what that man was.
A disciple is a man consumed by God. He is man who not only has tasted the gift of grace like a believer, but is in pursuit of the deeper meaning of what that grace has him bound for. He rarely counts the costs of following hard after His savior Jesus, and he only feels at home when in the presence of the great “I AM”. He delights in the Word that God has spoken to him, and is not fearful of questioning his maker to further his own understanding of Godly things. He studies not for trivial knowledge, but to gain understanding in navigating the constant winds of change that punishes his life at every turn. He is a man who understands that without relentless effort and total submission, he will never be transformed into what the Holy Spirit desires him to be. The paths he takes are sometimes trodden with hundreds of saint’s footprints, and sometimes he follows the Holy Spirit where there is no path at all. He does not mind the dirty work that God requires of him; the stench of the unsaved, unregenerate, sinner is like a magnet to him. He seeks for any splinter of holiness that God will allow him, and always feels that as far as his faith has brought him, he has not come very far at all. He is fully aware of his sin, and there is no one harder on him than himself. He finds joy to worship in any place with other believers, and yet is discouraged when he finds that many of those believer’s journey has begun, and ended, in that same place, never to move forward. He takes great confidence in the fact that the God of the universe loves him, and yet still he wonders why the God of the universe would love him. God is constantly changing him, and therefore he is in constant change, an ever evolving, moving, transforming soul that gives little thought to what God has told him to leave in his past, and every thought to what God is doing in him now. He plans for the future confident it will come, but would give no regard if it did not.
A disciple is a man, forever standing with his face pressed up against the steel mesh fence screaming across the ramp, “How do I become what you are?”