Psalms 27:8-9 8. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. 9. Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
I had the privilege, in the Navy, of flying for more than twenty years. There are some things I do not miss about flying, but there are many more that I do miss. I do not miss, for example, flying over the North Atlantic at night through frontal thunderstorms in January. Nowadays, most aircraft can often get around or over the storms. In the mid-1960s, though, the patrol planes we flew in search of the “wily Soviet submariner” were far less advanced than those of today.
Back then, we flew a rotary-engine propeller aircraft. Mature, frontal thunderstorms with towering anvil headed clouds are vicious. They rock the plane, shake the plane, jolt the plane every which way. On dark nights, frequent bolts of lightning in the midst of the clouds can be unnerving. Prayers are said. Such situations recalled to me the words of my eighth grade teacher, “One must keep one’s wits about him to survive.” Well, our wits in one place, we were always happy and most thankful to have overcome a rigorous trial and returned safely to Norfolk!
What I especially miss is flying on a day after the passage of a cold front. The weather becomes CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited). The air is crisp and cool, and there is nothing to impede sight. One can see miles and miles in any direction. As the poem goes, to have flown in those conditions is to have “. . . wheeled and soared and swung / High in the sunlit silence.” You can look down on what appears an undisturbed world of rivers and rills and fields and hills.
Once, long ago, in the late afternoon of an incredibly clear, brilliant day at “angels ten” (10,000 feet), above Evergreen, Alabama, I could see the gulf to the south and almost to Montgomery in the north. En route to Milton, Florida, I could see the darkening fields below and the setting sun’s rays
gleaming from the distant outline of Mobile Bay to the southwest. There is no adequate way to describe either the beauty of that scene or the elation I felt in that situation. That particular instant is as vivid to me today as it was nearly fifty years ago, and I often recall it when I seek a moment of personal solitude. Perhaps on that day, I too, “reached out and touched the face of God!”
Our Lenten journey may not be too unlike a flight experience. As we ponder Christ’s sojourn in the wilderness and the events leading to his crucifixion, we travel a path of deepening gloom: trial, humiliation, torture, derision, death. Darkness descends, and prayers are said. Despair is at hand. Thankfully, we know what’s coming: a brilliance of light and love through the resurrection of Christ, and the elation of salvation. Have we found the face of God?
O God, in your grace and mercy, lead us through our reflections so that, seeking we may find your face. Amen