Whilst serving in the British Army, I fancied a go at becoming a helicopter pilot. Now, any of you who have been in a car with me will immediately realise that this was not my finest hour! Nevertheless, this morning I was thinking about a conversation I had last night with a lovely guy who is exploring faith; we were chatting about the Father’s love. I was mulling over in my mind what that heavenly connection really was and meant to my life. I then, bizarrely, remembered the aptitude test that I had completed all those years ago. Picture a flat dinner plate with a marble on it. This contraption that you had to sit in mimicked the controls of a helicopter (two pedals and a joystick) and was attached to this dinner plate, so as you moved your feet and hands, the plate tilted left and right, forwards and backwards depending on your movements. The idea was that you had to use the controls to move the plate to get the marble to roll to and sit perfectly in the centre of the plate, on this little white dot. Any sudden movement tillted the marble off to one side..the only way to get it to stay in the centre was to be completely balanced in all planes at once. Obviously an important skill in a helicopter. The interesting thing is that apparently, whilst you can train yourself to get better and better at it, in the end it is a natural gift; you were either born with the aptitude or not. When in a controlled environment you can get very good, in fact nearly perfect, however as soon as pressure is applied, it is this natural aptitude that kicks in to keep you balanced; it is out of your control.
In Ephesians 3: 17 Paul writes ‘Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.‘ NLT
Two things really spoke to me this morning from this. Firstly, there are so many views of love out there in the world. Book after book on love languages, learning how to love, healthy relationships etc. You can learn really well how to love in a natural, humanistic sense. But does this type of love withstand the battering of life? I can wrestle with the controls and make a half decent job of loving, but in the end it is what (or who) is well beyond my control that will make the difference to how quickly I can return to that place of balance. That is not something I can train in or even learn, it is only something that I can freely receive as He does that invisible work in me to grow my roots deeper into Him. We all think that we have got there at some point in our lives. It is just when we think that we are ‘good’ at loving, that momentary sense of pride or even reputation, then bang. The down-draft hits us (and yes, it is usually from heaven) and the beautifully balanced machine that we have learned to fly so well ends up auto-rotating to the ground, engine stalled. Now, you can wrestle with the controls all you like, but it is only by trying to point the nose of the helicopter towards the earth, into the dive, that you gain enough airflow to cushion your descent and avoid a fatal crash. The fuel of love is found in the secret place, the ability to remain in it, in all circumstances, is only found in the fire of encountering and embracing the challenges of life. The only safe place is to recognise that, where love is concerned, it shouldn’t be our hands on the controls in the first place.