Do you have the right stuff?

On the morning of October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager climbed into the cockpit of his tiny Bell X-1 plane and prepared for another attempt to fly faster than the speed of sound. His plane had recently been modified after earlier flights demonstrated a loss of stabilizer control at near-Mach speeds. When the first portion of his flight revealed that he had the control he needed, Yeager throttled forward and pushed through the sonic wall.

Others had tried to break the sound barrier and failed. Several had even died trying. How did Yeager accomplish what others could not? Brett and Kate McKay explain:

Other pilots had approached it but backed down from fear. As they closed in on the sound barrier, the plane began to violently shake, and it truly felt as if going any faster would rip the plane to pieces. It was at that point that pilots would get scared and slow it down. But Yeager bit the bullet and pushed on through, finding that once you “broke” the barrier, the shaking stopped and the ride smoothed out. You just had to keep going.

 In many ways, our culture today resembles the shock wave that faced test pilots in the late 1940s. Radical social forces are buffeting the institutions of marriage and the family. Indeed, the entire social order feels as if it’s about to tear apart. Financial and political instability contribute to our sense of unease and the horrific violence in the Middle East and elsewhere lead many to wonder if the time of fulfillment is at hand.

Much of what is happening today is alarming and truly heartbreaking, but none of it should be surprising. God’s plan for creation has been under attack since sin first entered the picture. The Bible records story after story of the near destruction of God’s people and the miraculous ways He saved them time and again. Every age reveals both threats and heroes. Ours is no different.

What most characterized Chuck Yeager as a pilot was his unshakeable sense of duty and his meticulous preparation. He didn’t seek the limelight or personal glory. He approached his historic flight as he did every other: it was his job. But, he also had something a bit more, what writer Tom Wolfe called “the right stuff.” In fact, Wolfe called Yeager the “most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff.”

Esther before Ahasuerus

Esther before Ahasuerus, by Valentin Lefevre, 17th century

Our time calls for great bravery and moral clarity, for men and women of God to show “the right stuff.” In response to the many threats to the family, we must be more articulate, winsome and courageous in proclaiming the truth and beauty of God’s plan for humanity. We must study the threats to the moral order and prepare ourselves to handle them. Sadly, just as the need is greatest, many in the Church are choosing to throttle back and capitulate on moral issues rather than risk a pummeling from anti-family fundamentalists.

Two days before he broke the sound barrier, Yeager cracked two ribs in a horseback riding accident. Nevertheless, he showed up and did his job. We who belong to the Church may also feel weary and broken at times. But, like Yeager, we have a job to do. God has placed us in this moment of history to accomplish the tasks He has set out for us before time began. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Life will always throw us challenges, but we must learn to “lean into the pain” as Henri Nouwen taught. Capitulation and moral compromise are not options so much as resignations to death. Now is the time for Christians to stand together on the truth of God’s Holy Word, to love others fiercely, to protect the innocent and vulnerable, and to pray over everything without ceasing. Our calling is to find our courage and throttle forward through the great moral challenge of our age.

With peace and joy,

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“Fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” 
— Daniel 10:19a