Rats in the Cockpit


I heard Graham Cooke once talking about a military pilot who was testing a new plane.  It wasn’t finished out inside, so the paneling wasn’t in place and wires were exposed.  As he was flying, he looked down and saw a big, fat rat gnawing at the wires.  “Uh, guys…I’ve got a problem” he radioed down.  “There’s a rat…eating the wires…what do I do?”  He had to stop the rat from eating the wires before he (the rat) severed something necessary, and he had to do it by himself, while he was flying the plane, without crashing it.   And quickly.

One quick thinking commander on the ground told the pilot to fly UP.  The plane was designed to go into the upper atmosphere, where the air was so thin the rat wouldn’t be able to breathe.  The pilot would be OK because he had his helmet, but the rat would pass out.  The pilot flew upward where, as predicted, the rat lost consciousness, probably saving the pilot’s life (and a very expensive plane).

It’s been a long week, and it’s Wednesday.  Heavy things are on my soul.  Several friends have recently shared with me their gruesome pasts of unthinkable abuse—some are finding healing in Jesus, some are still reeling in grief, all these years later—and ALL of their stories are sickening, like the kind that just make you want to vomit.  … There are undercurrents of conflicts in several of the Christian communities I know and love—and, undertow-like, they keep circling around and threatening to pull me under, this never-ending life-sucking drivel. …  A Christian brother’s character has been called into question with some pretty serious concerns, and people are asking me what I think, and honestly, I’m afraid there might be reason for concern…and wondering what I need to do about it—realizing that even the hint of suspicions can have devastating ramifications, even if proven false, and yet, if we don’t investigate and it proves true, those of us who “knew” are both guilty and responsible for our silence (even though we don’t “know”).  There’s no easy answer.

And then just this morning I heard that there was an explosion at my parents’ ranch in one of the barns.  I’ll spare you all the details, because that isn’t really the point, but it’s literally a miracle that no one died, not even any of the horses.[1]  After the shock and gratefulness for all that wasn’t lost comes the wave of grief for all that was lost, however, and all that must be done to recover.  They were in the midst of building and moving, so not only did they lose a barn, but in that barn was Dad’s man-cave where pretty much anything that meant anything to him was stored, all his guns and ammo (he said it was like a Chinese new year when all the ammo started going off!) and fishing equipment, all the tools and equipment for the ranch and building projects, etc., the largest of several containers storing stuff from the move until the new house was ready, and Paco’s apartment, along with everything that Paco owned.  Paco is our beloved ranch hand, who was on his knees, saying his prayers when the explosion happened.  The explosion was felt for miles, literally.  It was such a force that it blew the door off of one of the massive safe’s—and yet, somehow in the room next door to the explosion, a praying Paco was able to walk away, barefooted with nothing but the clothes on his back, but alive.

photo 1 (9) photo 2 (8) photo 3 (6)

It’s a heavy night.  So many conflicting emotions.  Gratefulness, pain, loss, joy, sorrow, exhaustion…  You’d like to think you’d just be grateful everyone was alive, but there’s something so sickening about loss.  It’s not like it was all sold and the money given to a good cause, it just feels like everything was wasted.  So I’m thinking about where my treasure is stored, tonight, for one thing.  I’m thankful that even though my dad had a lot of “stuff” in that barn—some of it valuable in monetary terms, some of valuable in sentimental terms, a lot of old things passed down from generations, and a lot of new things he had hoped to pass to his sons and grandsons, not to mention memories of our childhoods, my brother’s football films, family albums and memories…—but still it was just “stuff,” and more importantly, he knows it’s just stuff.  He’s sickened a little by it all, but peaceful.  I guess we all are.  He’s alive.  Paco’s alive.  The horses are all alive…  God is good.  And God would still be good if that fire had been fatal.  It’s just easier to see it when we don’t have to see through the eyes of death.

I’ve digressed.  You understand, I’m sure…or at least I hope.  It’s been a lot to take in, and not just the explosion—that was just the (very large) tip of the iceberg—but ALL of it.

I feel a little like I’m in that cockpit with the rat, only it’s a lot of rats, big, fat ones, gnawing on the wires, some of them vicious and menacing, some simply annoying and distracting, all of them capable of short circuiting the wiring, all of them pulling my attention away from what I must be doing—piloting the plane.  Like that other pilot, the only answer is to go higher, up to the high places with Jesus, to the place where His thoughts, the ones that aren’t like ours because they are so much higher than ours, can be found.[2]  Up there, in the pure air of His presence, those rats can’t breathe, but suddenly I can.  I breathe peace—because I am in HIS air, HIS presence—and I know…  I know that HE is God.  I know that He is good.  I know that He loves me and can work all things to good.  I know that He is sovereign and just and merciful and holy.  I know that His love never fails and that in Him there is no condemnation.  I breathe easy because His perfect love casts out fear and He has given me all things that I need for life and godliness.  I rest knowing that His glory goes before me and His righteousness is my rear guard.  And I remember that nothing can separate me from his love, not even the rats, unless I LET them.

It’s not that the rats can separate me from His love—His love never fails—but they can sure keep me from feeling His love, if I allow myself to focus on the rats rather than going higher up.  I know that’s what I need, because the rats have become all consuming.  Little things, big things, menacing things, even good and right things…they’ve all begun to gnaw at the wires in my brain, messing with my navigation, getting me off kilter, off course and off balance.  I’m accelerating when I shouldn’t, the breaks are sticking and jamming, lurching me forward, slamming me back as I try to catch my breath.  Suddenly I’m more focused on what’s going wrong in the cockpit of my brain than I am with flying straight and following the course Jesus mapped out for me.  I must go higher.  I must get to a place where the rats simply can’t survive—a place so close to the presence of God that all the doubts and fear and worry and niggling concerns simply can’t exist.

I know this.  But if I’m honest, I’d rather just close my eyes and forget about the rats for a little while, whether the plane crashes or not.  It’s so much easier to just put on the Netflix and vacate the heaviness, than to go higher and ask God for His perspective on the matters.

It’s Lent though.  And even though I haven’t wanted to, I’ve committed to a few friends to give something up for Lent.  I know the tendency for me right now is to just go through the motions and do the right thing because I’m a good little Christian girl, but even just the little act of outward obedience seems to be doing something in my heart, because I had that thought when I wanted to vacate—It’s Lent.  This isn’t about just giving something up, it’s about saying GOD is better, it’s about getting closer to Him.  It’s about GOING HIGHER.

So I lit the candles, grabbed a coffee (or two or three…clearly I did not give up coffee for Lent!), grabbed my Bible and my journal and decided to read and pray and “cast all my cares on Him because He cares for me.”  And you know what I found?  For now anyway, the rats are all passed out, no longer chewing on the wires or distracting me with their antics, they are incapacitated in the air of His presence.  I’m sure they’ll revive tomorrow when we come back down from the high places and the daily duties enter in, but I know where to go to put them back to rest.

I’m reminded of that old song, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, I’ll leave you with the words:  

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting

He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;

Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

[1] I was going to spare you the details, but how can I not share how merciful God was to us?  My Dad would have been where the explosion happened if my mom hadn’t been at the ranch that night (she is often in town with the grandbabies).  Dad usually stays in the man-cave working on his gazillion projects until late at night, but he went in early because of mom, about an hour before the explosion.  The mares and babies had been in at nights because of the cold, but this night, unlike the previous nights, Paco decided to leave them out so they could run around a bit.  Paco’s alive – and that’s just a miracle.  It had just sleeted the night before, and the ground was still wet with sleet, otherwise the fire would have spread to the trees (it did, but was containable) and two other barns right next to it.  There would have been NO stopping it.  In fact, it most likely would have taken out not only the entire ranch, but many of our neighbors as well.  Firemen from FOUR nearby towns came—ALL volunteers .  There was a gas tank that someone thought to move, knowing that if it were to spill it would be a bio-hazard and the ranch would have been excavated to contain it—everything would have been lost.  The stallions had to be moved in case their barn caught fire, too.  One got lose and found the mares…but someone saw it and was able to get him safely away before things escalated.  So, so many near misses…miracles…tender mercies.

[2] See Isaiah 55

This entry was posted in Encouragement, Object lesson, Relationship with God and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Rats in the Cockpit

  1. Teresa Woidneck says:

    Stacie: Had no idea this happened! Just read your writing and in shock.. Thoughts and prayers lifted up to all.

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