CLERGY CORNER: A gracious boss and even more gracious God

Posted on 11 May 2017 by LeslieM

When I was a first officer, one of my responsibilities included the preflight inspection. This proverbial “kicking the tires” began with checking pressure gauges and the plane’s structural integrity, and usually ended with me searching for a ramp agent for the code to get back into the jet-bridge.

On one particular flight from Greensboro, North Carolina to Memphis, Tennessee, I made a small mistake. While opening the panel that revealed the gauge for the crew oxygen level, I noticed the power wasn’t established to the aircraft yet, which was needed for the check. I decided I would continue the rest of the preflight and then circle back to this particular panel, which I left open.

By the time I had scuttled around the entire plane — having crawled under the wheel wells to check the fire detection loops and poked my head in the aft avionics bay, etc. — my brain had jettisoned the whole open panel thing.

As we departed toward Memphis, immediately after we raised the gear, a loud whooshing sound filled the flight deck. Having completely forgotten about the panel being open, we both assumed there might be a structural issue with the plane and prepped for a return to Greensboro.

Since we had yet to burn off the enroute fuel, we would have to do what’s called an “overweight landing.” It’s nothing unsafe; but, prior to a subsequent departure, a mechanic must review the aircraft to ensure no damage was incurred due to landing heavier than designed.

We landed and radioed for a contract mechanic, which meant a serious delay. The captain was cool with my mistake and we chilled on the ramp, knowing it’d be best to steer clear of the angry people inside. While we waited, the local firemen stopped by with their new shiny truck and offered to give us a ride and demonstration of its capabilities — though I wasn’t sure they could provide the fire protection I needed.

I was raised to take responsibility for my actions so, upon our return to Memphis, I headed for my boss’ office for the “carpet dance.” I confessed my error, which undoubtedly caused havoc for most of the passengers and cost the company thousands of dollars — probably more than my first officer’s yearly salary at the time.

Though this incident occurred in my early 20s, I still remember how gracious my chief pilot was as he asked whether I had learned something from the experience. I had. From that day forward, no matter what … never leave a panel open.

My point? Imagine that you lent $20 to one friend and $2,000 dollars to another. After an unexpected bonus from your employer, with this new income you decide to forgive both debts. Which of your two friends will have a greater thankfulness and joy? As we know in similar stories recorded in scripture, the one who had the greater debt forgiven.

Speaking from experience, I’ve had to ask others for forgiveness many times; but, it’s the moments similar to those above that move me the most. The greater the debt the greater is the thankfulness.

So I have to ask, why aren’t we living everyday in the awareness of what God has done for us —the sin He’s blotted out for our sake through His sacrifice on the cross? Why do we neglect to meditate upon the depth of this grace in a way that moves us to respond in some capacity?

My concern is that too many of us are living a lukewarm and complacent faith, unaware how big our mistakes are and how awesome (how deep!) His grace is. Litmus test: If you’re not talking about Jesus (and what He’s done personally for you) I’m not sure you fully comprehend His grace and forgiveness.

If this is you, perfect! Put down the paper and get alone with God in His Word and remind your soul that “Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for u,” and that “victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” Romans 8:34; 37.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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