Southern Man

Sunday, July 30, 2006

God Is My TCAS

One minor incident last Sunday was that when we were descending into Chicago, the aircraft made a very abrupt maneuver - a steep bank to the right and a rapid high-power climb, accompanied by a screaming engine wail that got everyone's heartrate well into extreme-workout territory. Fortunately no passengers were in the aisles (although it did catch one of the flight attendants off guard) and no one was hurt. No explanation was given, and there were more than the usual audible sighs of relief after we touched down. Don't quote statistics at me claiming that flying commercial is the safest way to travel; Southern Man generally maintains a state of high anxiety from takeoff until parked at the arrival gate even without the unexpected aerobatics.

I mentioned this in Sunday School this morning for no other reason than that our discussion leader is an air-traffic controller and I thought he (a) would be amused and (b) could shed a little light on the subject. His guess was that it was commanded by a system like TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) to avoid a close encounter with another aircraft. According to him, if TCAS determines that there is danger of a collision it issues appropriate orders to both aircraft and the pilots are trained to obey them immediately, even if those orders are in conflict with instructions from the human controllers. This led to half-joking comments that God sometimes acts as such and guides us away from danger that we don't see. I am fairly sure that ours was the only Sunday-School classroom in the country in which the acronym "TCAS" was uttered in prayer.

On reflection, there's some degree of truth to that analogy. Over the last few months I have been tempted to do some really stupid things but was on many occasions stayed by the still, small voice that told me "don't go there." That's God, in TCAS mode. He knows when I'm veering into dangerous territory and will steer me clear if only I have the wit and wisdom to listen to Him.

My soon-to-be-ex-father-in-law frequently beseeched God to "guide and direct us" when he prayed. I'll add to that: God, be my TCAS and warn me away from danger. Amen.


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