To love and be loved is one of the deepest emotions in the human breast. But, what is love? We are all familiar with the love a mother for her children, love of family, love of friends, but the love of what I am about to write is of another dimension. A love that is not our own.
It started out as a routine training flight of a large cargo glider towed by a C47 troop transport. On board was a pilot, co-pilot, and no other crew or passengers. Then it happened. At about 4,500 feet, the glider shuddered, heaved and rolled over on its side. The pilot immediately disengaged the towrope and the glider fell into a tight uncontrollable spiral. Both the pilot and the co-pilot pulled frantically on the controls but nothing happened. Knowing the probable disaster by remaining in the glider, the co-pilot unfastened his seat belt, tightened the straps on his parachute, and crawled to the door at the rear of the cabin. There he pulled a steel cable that blew the door off. He then looked up front at the pilot and watched him still tugging on the controls. He then shouted, "We had better get out before it's too late," but he couldn't be heard over the noise of the doomed glider. He then proceeded to crawl back to the cockpit to warn the pilot that is was now or never. The pilot nodded his head and told the co-pilot to go ahead and jump and he would follow out after him. The co-pilot crawled back to the open door, placed his hand on his ripcord, looked up front at the pilot still strapped to his seat, and jumped. He cleared the glider, pulled his ripcord, the chute opened, and all was quiet and serene. When the glider came around in a tight spiral, he saw the pilot still sitting in the cockpit, and all the time the glider was losing precious altitude.
As the co-pilot was floating down, he was pleased with himself. He had come through an emergency that he had imagined many times, and he knew that he had acted in a professional manner. He had not panicked and there had been no time wasted on prayer. He proved to himself that he had the discipline to overcome this situation. He felt great, and he was proud of himself.
Then things began to change. Over his long training, he had become casual towards accidents and other people's deaths. Up until this moment, he felt great. Then the face of the pilot sitting in a doomed glider began to impact. At this moment, he went from total ecstasy to total agony. If he was loaded with ego before, he had none now.
He knew he should not have abandoned the glider with the pilot still inside. He then began to ask God to save the pilot and, if He wouldn't do that, please put him back in the glider and they would ride it down together. He then made a promise. He would never abandon another human being again, if only He would make it right this time.
At about this time he saw the pilot's chute open, and within seconds the glider hit the ground with one hell of an explosion, with dust, dirt, and parts of glider going in all directions. But the pilot was not killed. He was barely scratched.
There were two miracles that afternoon. First, the pilot was not killed, and second, the co-pilot made promises he could never abandon. How do I know this story. I was the co-pilot. I have based my life upon what took place that afternoon. Oh, on my good days, I play down my promise and I tell myself I was just under a severe emotional strain. But, during the long, lonely nights, it always comes back just the way it happened. There was some other's love involved and it was not mine.
This flight took place in Victorville, California on February 14, 1943. I always like to look back on it as a time when I looked death in the eye and it backed down; and, then something beyond death looked me in the eye and I backed down.
Whose love it was, I have long speculated. It was obvious to me that there is a spiritual life apart from the life I knew and accepted. As a young boy, I attended Sunday School; and, as a youth, I became a member of a Presbyterian church. That was the extent of my religious education. Here, in an instant, I had to confront everything I thought I was. but it fell short. I made promises and prayed for another chance. At that moment, everything changed, and my life has never been the same.
Up until that time, I thought all life was relative, but in that moment of agony, I was informed that there are absolutes.There is no doubt in my mind that we are our brother's keeper. We also do not live by bread alone. These are both old truths, deep truths, and absolute truths. You and others are one, equals the famous words, "No man is an island."
As I tried to put life into the absolutes, I discovered another absolute, It is contained in the words of an old phrase, "The Truth will set you free." It is difficult to describe this Truth, but the best example I can thnk of takes place in the Star Wars movie.
When Ben Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker to use the Force, he is speaking of the power and energy of life. Ben Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker, "Turn off your computer, turn off your machines, and do it yourself, follow your feelings, trust your feelings." He is calling on this Force or the Truth that sets you free.
There is one other thing that has given me great insight in the quest for the love that is not our own., It is found in the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, in Chapter 13. The most haunting verse has always been the 12th and I quote:
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood."
In closing my spiritual journey with you, I cannot help but include the entire 13th chapter as these are words I cherish:
"If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith; so as to remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I am nothing."
"Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful. it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things."
"Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, when I became a man, I gave up my childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now, I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."