My late son, Nathan, as a teenager, used to love building remote control models, and as far as he was concerned, the more challenging the better.
I will always remember his replica of a World War two light cruiser which was fitted with rotating gun turrets that were independently operated and fired BB gun pellets. I was gob smacked the afternoon I watched him and a close friend, who had built his own remote-control war ship, battle it out on a local dam. The aim of the exercise was to try and shoot the opposition’s balsa wood model to pieces so that it would sink, or at least be disabled so as it was no longer under control. However, the BB gun pellets were not that effective, so before you knew it the game rules changed and ramming the opposition was introduced into the exercise.
I can’t remember who was victorious, but I think both craft suffered from the encounter, much to the delight of the protagonists.
However, the RC models which attracted Nathan the most were aeroplanes. Over the years he built numerous models, ranging from delicate gliders to a single prop plane with close to a 3 metre wing span. That was one of my favourites. It reminded me a bit like a swan as it tried to get airborne. It would huff and puff and creak and groan as the single motor endeavoured to get its large heavy body into the air where once enough altitude was gained, it could float and soar majestically.
A bit like me these days as I try to get out of bed in the morning.
Unfortunately, this particular plane, like most of its counterparts, went out in a blaze of glory. One day, Nathan was flying it at a considerable height, when all of a sudden, a small part fell off the fuselage. It was a sickening feeling as he watched this piece flutter to the ground wondering what would be next?
Nathan immediately put the plane in a shallow descent, desperately trying to put as little force on the airframe as possible. It was a very tense few moments and at one stage it looked as if all would be well, until on one of the turns the starboard wing parted company from the rest of the plane. The strain had been too much for the planes airframe and it fell apart before his very eyes.
Silently Nathan watched as hours of his time and months of his pocket money came plummeting back to earth in disarray, only to smash into smaller pieces against the solid cold earth.
Thus, can it be when something that we had hoped for and dreamed of fails to come to fruition. Dreams can be as varied as the individuals that have them, but have them we all do, and some of them to our utter dismay come crashing to the ground.
During these difficult times we find ourselves in, dreams and hope can seem to be in short supply.
I think of the conversation the resurrected Jesus had with the two disciples as they walked along the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). They had not recognised him, and were still very much immersed in the grief they felt as a result of his death three days earlier. Perhaps it was their grief which was keeping them in the dark… who knows? Anyway, recognise him they did not and when Jesus feigned ignorance as to the events of the last few days, they proceeded to tell him about his own death.
Quite ironic really.
The phrase that stands out to me most during their discourse is the simple statement…
“but we had hoped…”
In those four words one can not only hear, but feel their dream of a Messiah come crashing back to earth and being smashed to pieces in their minds, never to be restored again… Oh the pain of it all.
No doubt all of us can relate to this statement to some degree….
“but we had hoped…”
Of course, Jesus did not leave them in this place of despair and at the right time he opened their eyes and they saw him, the resurrected Messiah, before their very own eyes!!!
Oh, the shock, oh the joy which they could not contain.
Despite the late hour, they could not wait to tell the other disciples and so off they went, back along the road they had just finished travelling. However, this time it was not a road of grief, pain and loss, but the same road had become a pathway of unspeakable joy and hope. I suspect their trip back was a lot quicker than their one there, as their heavy steps of loss had been replaced with bounds of joy.
That is the reality of the resurrection in our lives as we embrace who it is that travels with us every step of the way, especially when the journey becomes hard and steep.
Last week was the 16th anniversary of the death of my precious son Nathan, who was killed in a work place accident at the age of 24 years. When he died, I was so stricken with the grief of his loss that I sunk to a point where I felt dead. Sure, I was still breathing, but that was just a mechanical process that I had no control over. Emotionally and spiritually I felt dead and cold, beyond help or connection with another human being.
I can still remember it culminating one particular rainy night at a coastal town where my wife, Jenny and I were staying. We had argued and I had stormed off for a walk. I was at the end of my tether and as I stood in the dark on that cold, rainy night crying, I cried out in despair to God.
I told him I felt as good as dead even though I was still breathing…
I don’t know how long I stood there, for time seemed to stand still, but at some point, or other a thought started to form deep within my soul. A nebulous impression at first which gained substance and when fully formed it floated to the surface so as to be grasped by my conscious self…
“But after death comes resurrection…do you believe this?”
“Are you prepared to trust that I can do this and restore life to your being?”
That was it! Simple but direct and at the end of the day I knew I had a couple of decisions to make…
Will I trust Him or not? Do I believe he is the God of the resurrection or not?
I can’t remember how long I took, but eventually, by His grace, I decided to trust Jesus and give him a chance to breath life back into me, and then I walked back to the motel room.
Years have passed since that night and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that The Lord has breathed life back into my soul and brought me back from that very dark place. Certainly, it was not done in one amazing restorative action, but rather piece by piece over the years.
Yes, it has been a very hard journey at times and, I am not “all better and shiny new.” I still mourn the loss of Nathan immensely, and still have some deep emotional scars. But God’s power and grace revived me to the point where I smile often and can rejoice in the life that abounds within and without, which often is expressed through the family and friends around me.
I dared to give Him as many of the pieces of me I could and he is putting them back together. I am a work in progress, with the hope and power of the resurrection as the underpinning truth.
I guess it is a little similar to what Nathan used to do with his planes after they had crashed and were strewn all over a paddock. After the initial shock, he would patiently scour the landscape looking for as many of the parts of his latest plane he could find and after carefully examining them, he would take them back home to be restored to their former glory.
I can testify that on a number of occasions I saw Nathan rebuild and fly planes that had been broken so badly that you would think they would never fly again… but they did.
How much more will Jesus do for us, when we dare to trust Him?
Nathan also believed in the resurrected Jesus. I have no doubt in the fullness of time he and I will “fly planes” together once again or whatever it is one does in glory.
Then we will no longer “see in a mirror dimly and know only in part, but see face to face and understand fully as we have been fully understood.” (I Cor 13:12)
Until that time, let us all try and remember who it is that journeys with us through this life… the resurrected Jesus.