I was a child, I loved to build model planes. It was
during World War II and I knew every type of combat
aircraft being flown, friend and foe. I remember receiving
a Lockheed P-38 kit one Christmas. It was enormous;
the photo on the box clearly showed the four-foot wingspan
of the finished airplane. Inside were all the parts
necessary to build this beautiful model, as well as
detailed plans. The plans! I could spend hours studying
the drawings-the cut-away views, the full-size fuselage
layouts-dreaming of holding the completed model in my
built dozens of models on the ping-pong table in our
basement during those years: a Japaneze Zero which I
set on fire and flew off the garage roof, pretending
I had shot it down; a Curtiss Jenny with a joystick
which actually moved the control surfaces; a Boeing
B-17 Flying Fortress with four propellers, each powered
by its own rubber band. Each new kit was an adventure
to be savored, to be dreamed about, a challenge to be
overcome, and a frustration to be endured. Because the
finished product was never as beautiful as it had been
in my imagination.
I was thirty, I learned to fly. I flew a Piper Tri-Pacer,
a Cessna 170 tail-dragger, and a Cessna 172 tricycle-gear
with a rear window. Without a doubt, taking off and
landing solo are the most exciting things I have ever
done. There is nothing to compare with the thrill, the
beauty, the absolute freedom of flying. I think it was
Richard Bach who said that God does not deduct from
a person's allotted lifespan the hours he spends in
the air. You can't fly very long without becoming a
visionary, a mystic, a more spiritual person.
is a theological kit which contains a model of true
spirituality. It comes in a box containing all the pieces
necessary to assemble a particular worldview. Included
are detailed instructions on how to, and how not to,
put those various pieces together. But those directions
limit it; it can produce only one very narrow viewpoint.
Just as you can't make a B-24 out of a Jenny kit, neither
can you fit certain spiritual experiences into a religion
which has been drawn up specifically to exclude them.
spirituality is as free and wide as the sky. It knows
no limitations, it realizes that God is capable of everything,
it remembers that Jesus said he has much more to tell
us. In short, it is eager to discover as much as possible
about creation, about the plan of God.
Why would anyone want to build models of the spiritual
world in the basement of their life when God has given
us the whole of creation to embrace? Don't get me wrong.
Model-building is not a bad hobby, but its very existence
points to a much larger reality. Only a child would
claim that a model Spitfire is the ultimate expression
of that idea.
difference between the model and the real thing is simple:
the model is fragile and tiny; it cannot contain our
body or our soul. The real thing, by contrast, is capable
of bearing us aloft, helping us transcend our earthly
limitations. Model-building teaches children certain
creative skills. But some of us never forsake the box,
never go outside and look wonderingly at the sky. We
are afraid, afraid of the unknown, afraid of adventure,
afraid of losing control. We are afraid of God.
presents us with a choice between fear and love, between
the model and the real thing.
Nov. 15th, 2003
John W. Sloat 2003