I used to ask my dad to stall the plane.
I loved to free fall. The feeling of my stomach in my ribs. The weightlessness. The moments of quiet after my dad idled the engine before he brought it back to full power. It’s like that first drop on a big rollercoaster. But more unpredictable. And more down than forward.
It wasn’t until I was older, though still in the single digits, that I realized how dangerous that was.
I have been considerably less thrilled – as in, not at all – when God has told me to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) while my life was free falling. With an adult mindset, it does not make sense. But if I become like a little child (Matthew 18:3), or rather, more specifically, remember what it was like when I was a little child literally careening in the sky, I can better understand God’s directive.
Some background: A pilot can deliberately stall a plane by pointing its nose upward and idling the engine. The four- and six-seater planes my dad used to fly were not rockets; they were designed to move more forward than upward. If you aim upward too much, then there is not enough air flow over the wings to sustain lift and the plane drops. You have some warning as the plane slows and the engine quiets. But if you don’t heed the warnings, you reach the point where you hang in space for a moment, and then you rapidly go down.
However, a person cannot become a licensed pilot without being able to recover from a stall. My dad had full faith in his ability to power up the engine and redirect the plane in a more desirable direction, and so did I.
Your life may seem like it’s headed in an upward direction, and then the next thing you know, it’s free falling chaos. I’ve experienced this more times than I care to count.
God asks us to have full faith in His ability to give our lives a re-boot and send us in a more desirable direction. It just doesn’t always feel like that at the time. This is the Know that I Am God part.
I have found it’s much easier to be still when you know you are in good hands.
People who are on rollercoasters scream, raise their hands, and/or laugh with joy, which is what I usually do. But on the plane, I had a job while the plane was falling: Remain calm. Stay seated. Be Still. My dad needed his full attention on saving us.
[Side note: my dad insisted he recovered us, he didn’t save us. From a child’s perspective, he saved us. From the perspective of the man in charge, he just recovered us. It’s about perspective.]
After he carefully stalled the plane, he handled the controls to keep the wings level, so we never came close to going completely upside down. (Those types of planes can only go upside down once.) He quickly restored the engine to full power. Then he worked to regain altitude. The whole process took less than a minute. Yet we fell hundreds of feet.
If I had determined I could fly the plane better than my dad and tried to take control, it would have been a much worse outcome. The best I could do during the most dangerous part is be still and trust him. God asks for the same.
A key part in understanding “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) is understanding the context. Psalm 46 begins with “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” It sounds good until you realize it’s referring to times (as in plural) of trouble that are so bad you need a refuge. Verses 8 and 9 are similar:
“Come, see the works of the LORD, who brings devastation upon the earth. He makes wars to cease throughout the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots in the fire.” (ESV)
For God to stop wars, that means there are wars. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear…because bows are pelting you with arrows and spears are being thrown at you. He burns chariots because they are running over you. Not exactly a pleasant experience.
And then He says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
Being still does not get you out of the chaos, but it does give you a better chance of survival and make it so that you survive your ordeals less scarred. God doesn’t need you to remain calm for Him to recover your life, but it does make for a more enjoyable experience. In this sense, be still and know that I am God refers to trusting God and staying close to Him.
It does not mean that you practice physically being still in every situation. There’s a time to be still and a time to move. There’s nothing my dad could have done to save me while we were falling if I decided to open the door and leave the shelter of the plane. I was the safest inside the plane.
But when my dad landed and exited the plane, it was no longer the safest place for me, nor would I be getting anywhere. I needed to open the door and leave. And since I was too small to step down, I left the plane by jumping out of it. I can’t tell you how many times I jumped out of a plane, but the plane was always on the ground and not moving. It was safe to jump. Being still during the chaos gave me the continued ability to jump during the peace.
Be still and know that He is God, and you’ll be better able to jump when He calls you to keep following Him.
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