If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Philippians 2:1-2 (MSG)
When a space orbiter has completed its mission, it must re-orient itself before landing back home on earth. Prior to landing, it has spent weeks in outer space, exploring and encountering the foreign and unfamiliar. In order to re-enter safely, its speed, pitch, and altitude must be carefully controlled. In most cases, it has also been travelling nose first in the upside down position. The spacecraft must first be turned around to the tail first position. Then it has to slow down as it begins its descent into the earth’s upper atmosphere. The reaction control system then engages and pitches the craft 40 degrees so that the tail faces the atmosphere, thus placing it back into the nose first position. The same system then rotates the craft right side up.
Because the shuttle is lined up over Asia as it hits the upper atmosphere and is travelling at 17,000 mph, its outer shell heats up to about 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. As it descends, it banks hard and serpentines to reduce its speed. As it gets closer to its landing spot, its pitch changes to minus 20 (almost seven times steeper that the descent of a commercial airliner) and control of the craft switches from computer to manual. The commander then lines it up with the runway, pulls up the nose to slow the rate of descent and lowers the landing gear. The shuttle touches down, the parachute and the speed brake on the vertical tail deploys. It comes to a rest, is powered down and remains unapproached and untouched for about 20 minutes to allow the noxious gases to dissipate. The door then opens, the commander and crew disembark, and the craft is serviced.
Re-entry (or reconnection with earth) is fuel intensive and requires a lot of insulation to prevent the spacecraft from overheating and breaking up. A successful mission requires a well-built shuttle, a faithful flight crew, and a stalwart mission control team. Since the conditions of space travel are always challenging, a critical failure in any of the three areas could cause catastrophic results. For instance, undetected damage to the heat tiles at lift-off, failure to close cargo bay doors, or improper data analysis by flight control personnel could have disastrous consequences. And so goes the support needed for our connection to or reconnection with our Lord and Savior.
The six-week 151,000 mile journey I took this Summer was akin to space travel. The extreme time zone dislocation of minus two hours to plus thirteen hours, a trial, engaging in a multitude of diverse activities, the cultural and language differences and barriers, countless hours in a pressurized cabin, flying at high altitudes, dealing with the issues in front of me as well as monitoring those at home, a death in the family, an ill loved one, and notification of additional litigation caused me to hit the upper atmosphere at mach 30 as a flaming inferno. However, others’ relentless prayers for me, the steadiness of the church who received me, and the guidance of the family and friends who loved me provided me with the necessary instructions and support that re-oriented my position, slowed me down, set my pitch, and controlled my descent before handing the controls back over to me. An entire crew of people, including my small group and other supportive believers, remained in constant contact with me as I aligned with the runway, lowered my landing gear, touched down, and deployed my chute. Now that the noxious chemicals have dissipated, I have stepped back out onto solid ground, and have received adequate rest, my prayer is this: Lord, Almighty and all-knowing God. You are the reason for my being and the purpose of my existence. May I always remember that! Loving your people and imitating your ways are the greatest part of my mission. Please forgive me for not always giving my all towards that focus, especially in my moments of stress; a time of my greatest need and the time that You use Your people to bring blessings in abundance. Thank You for Your willingness to always pursue me and other lost or disoriented souls. Your relentless love and Your army of servants have paved the path of faith, with which I have now reconnected, that leads to the foot of the cross; the place where You gave it all so that I may be free and with You for an eternity. Please light a fire under my feet so that I may serve as soothing foam and create a soft landing spot for any other hot re-entry who is dangerously close to ignition or who may already be ablaze. May I always be willing to share my talents for Your glory. Thank You for the incredible lessons, the protection of Your will and grace, the enormous support of Your people, the intact landing, the rest, and for the fire in the belly to serve You whole-heartedly again. It is in Your son’s name I pray – Amen.
A thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains. Should I stumble again, still I’m caught in your grace…Your will above all else, my purpose remains. The art of losing myself in bringing you praise…In my heart, in my soul, I give you control. Consume me from the inside out. Let justice and praise become my embrace to love you from the inside out. Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades. Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame. And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise. From the inside out Lord, my soul cries out. Hillsong United – Inside Out
Whether we are seeking something more than we have known in the world, we left on a prodigal adventure, or simply allowed busyness to pull us away from the habits that support our Christian walk, re-entry is a process that requires belief in God’s greatness, commitment to service, and intense support. God’s Church is that shuttle, ministry leaders are the flight crew, and the other dedicated servants are the mission control team. When they are strong and work together, the mission of making disciples of every nation are met or exceeded. Additionally, those who have temporarily left earth’s grounding are able to re-enter alive and land back on a solid foundation. When all hands are on deck, people experience the miracles that happen when God’s flight-control crew and ground-team workers move harmoniously together. Souls are saved by people crossing the line of faith or saved souls reconnect with the roots that keep them grounded in the faith.
My reflection on my re-entry this summer has me here:
- A commander is simply one many people in God’s army
- No commander ever has it all under control
- Our journeys may take us far and cause us to feel disconnected
- Re-entry is the necessary path to reconnection with solid ground
- It takes many people and multiple talents to bring people in
- Re-entry is rough because hyper-speed causes high heat
- Love and support cool the temperatures and reduce the effects of friction
- I must do my part to help others re-orient and reconnect
- His word is the solid ground and His grace is the soft landing spot
- Space is not the final frontier. Heaven is.
When I’m lost you pursue me; lift my head to see your glory. Lord of all, so beautiful; Here in you I find shelter – captivated by the splendor of your face, my secret place. I’m wide awake, drawing close, stirred by grace. And all my heart is yours. All fear removed, I breathe you in. I lean into Your love, oh your love. Your love so deep is washing over me. Your face is all I seek. You are my everything. Jesus Christ, You are my one desire. Lord hear my only cry to know you all my life. Hillsong United – Sinking Deep