When the journey has made you weary and you can’t see the way home, it’s comfort to the soul to encounter someone who does.
Captain Golden and I had spent hours in the frigid air aloft over northeastern Montana, doing our best in a trusty little T-33 to dodge and frustrate the efforts of two sleek, beautifully-deadly F-106 interceptors trying to flame us.
As pilot, the captain’s job was to make that little bird juke and dance all over the sky to break those interceptor radar locks before they could get clean missile shots at us. Since his seat back was too high for him to see behind him, he needed a spotter who could. As spotter, it was my job to tell him when to start that altitude- and course-evasive madness.
All of us, target crew, interceptor pilots, and ground control teams knew some things.
We knew we were safely being tracked and controlled by ground radar specialists and that our intercepts and weapons were all computer-generated. We knew it was beautiful flying weather that day at 14,000 feet, with almost unlimited visibility. We knew this was no game: we were practicing the deadliest dance in the air – the interception and possible destruction of an enemy target aircraft.
Those parachutes and helmets weren’t just for show. By the time we all were low on fuel and each returning to our bases, our flight suits were sweaty and our hair matted. We messed up some of their intercepts, and they splashed us a lot. We’d all just been perfecting our lethal profession, identifying possible threats and, when necessary, airborne death.
Captain Golden and I relaxed on the way back to Great Falls, Montana and Malmstrom AFB. We critiqued our evasive strategies, identified an idea or two that might be worth mentioning during mission debrief, and joked about this or that. Though I kept my feet off the rudder pedals, I flew the jet part of the way home.
Visibility being wonderful, we were both drinking in the absolute beauty of flying in those conditions. It was edging toward dusk as we neared our approach fix, and there was one more thing that, for me, made the experience as perfect as anything on Earth can be.
Somebody had turned the rabbit on. The rabbit is a series of sequenced bright strobes situated on gradually-higher platforms, spaced enough apart and somewhat aligned with the glide slope to as to beckon the incoming aircraft from final approach fix to landing. Even in good weather, there’s nothing more satisfying and relieving as seeing those strobes flashing out through the night, saying, “Welcome home, traveler. Come on in.”
God’s rabbit, His Spirit, has never failed to offer that same comfort and guidance to the human spirit. Every time I’ve found myself worn in body, mind, or spirit – or all three – the Holy Spirit always turns on God’s rabbit.
It can be a Bible verse or passage. It’s often a song, or some prose from another believer. In some cases, it’s been the timely visit and encouragement of a Christian brother or sister. Whatever the case, God’s rabbit does the same thing as those sequential strobes do at each end of almost every runway.
They reassure you somebody’s been watching, has turned on the lights for you, and are waiting to welcome you home.
© Copyright D. Dean Boone, November 2019