Surviving Spiritual Vertigo
When I was training to be a pilot, one of the things I had to master was flying the airplane by sole reference to its instruments. Before I experienced the feeling of flying without being able to see the natural horizon, it was difficult for me to imagine how it would feel. To be unable to determine up from down seemed impossible. But I would learn that, when you’re inside of a cloud, with the way that the forces are exerted against your body, it really is impossible to know that very thing. When you first enter a cloud it’s easy because you are oriented. But that orientation is short-lived as you quickly become confused. Without flight instruments, death is almost a certainty once you’ve lost outside references. That’s why when you first begin flying by instruments, you find yourself staring at them intently; you are sorely aware that your very life depends on it.
To compound this intense fear, there is this phenomenon known as vertigo that can harass you. Vertigo is when your inner sensations begin to disagree with what your instruments are telling you. And to add even more to this fear is the mistrust of your instruments that was drilled into you during training. To head off an instrument failure causing you to get killed, you are taught a thing called cross-checking your instruments to ensure that they’re all telling you the same thing. When one fails they’ll begin to disagree with each other and you’ll know that one of your instruments is malfunctioning. In the end, it should be obvious that the fear can become intense, because after all, your very life no less hangs in the balance.
So there you are, alone in a cloud, with your body screaming at you that your instruments are lying. Your heart races. You are fighting panic. You realize that your life depends on thinking straight, ignoring your feelings and cross-checking your instruments. This is not hyperbole, at least it wasn’t for me. These are real memories. But as time has passed, and I’ve gained more experience, vertigo has become a novelty. It’s now a thing that I find amusing and which is easily ignored.
I have found that these concepts easily transfer to my spiritual life. As a young Christian I loved my new life. But then I would hear things that would threaten my new beliefs. I can remember watching a television show on PBS about the Bible. It, of course, was from a Secular Humanist’s perspective. That show almost shipwrecked my faith as a new believer. There were also questions that I would encounter, specifically designed, it seemed, for the not-so-renewed mind. All of these gave me the same spiritual feeling as vertigo gave me physically… not knowing which way was up, and being very afraid.
You will discover, if you indeed have a reference point, that the culture you are living in is spinning out of control. The “pilots” have destroyed their instruments and are flying by the “seat of their pants,” doing what “seems right to them.” (Pr 14:12) Their reference point is the inside of their airplane, that is, the airplane could be up-side down and they are satisfied that, “up” is still toward its ceiling. But you don’t have to live this way. The scriptures tell us that, “His word is a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path.” But we must trust His Word, trust it with our very lives, and as if eternity itself was hanging in the balance… because it is. I can tell you that it won’t always be difficult, especially in your young lives. But I can tell you that the older you get the more everything will make sense, and that “flying” by the scriptures will easily deliver you safely past the fog of confusion that is your zeitgeist.
I pray that you learn to love the scriptures and that you would trust them. I also pray that you would grow up into maturity that easily sees right through the nonsense that is currently passing itself off as wisdom, and that you would teach your own children from their youngest years to do the same.