One of the hymns my mother used to hum around the house when I was growing up, was “God is still on the throne”. I think of it often when I’m flying over the jungle in one of our little planes. And I am reminded of the day I learned to see things from a higher perspective. It happened many years ago, when I was flying out to the hospital with a little girl who had been knocked unconscious by a falling tree.
She was stretched out beside me, strapped to the seat, and apart from an occasional twitching, looked like she was already dead. She had been in that condition for four or five days already, and we didn’t really hold out much hope for her survival. I busied myself with caring for her making sure the intravenous bottle connections were in place, wiping her forehead, and speaking softly into her ears. Anything to take my mind off the reality that faced me when I looked out the window: We were thousands of feet above the ground, flying in bad weather. And there was no getting around the fact that our bouncy little plane was at the mercy of the weather patterns that only God could control. I began to hum once more. “God is still on the throne, and He will take care of His own…”
The plane began to shudder again as the rain beat against us, and there was nothing in the view from inside the plane that gave me much hope that we would soon be out of it. No bright spots in any direction, no lighter shades of grey above or below. Life was quickly growing darker. I looked at the little girl beside me, and wondered if she had much chance of survival. I thought of her village, and wondered if our care and concern for the little girl would mean anything to them in spiritual terms.
For that matter, would anything make a difference? Why was it so difficult to reach the Yanomamo? I thought of the disappointments and the frustrations of the work in Parima, and the difficulties that had surrounded us from day one: the threats we had shrugged off, the verbal abuse we had grown accustomed to, the persistent indifference and, worse yet, amusement of many when we tried to speak of spiritual things. The plane shook and shivered in the storm, and I watched now with a dull feeling of resignation.
We had been flying at low altitudes because we didn’t know how a higher altitude might affect the patient; but the pilot turned around suddenly, and signaled me that we were going to go up. I nodded numbly. I didn’t really want to put any more distance between me and the earth, but the options were obviously limited. We flew up through the dark clouds, up, up, up, following each faint shade of lighter gray. Finally the pilot zeroed in on a particularly promising patch of lighter cloud. Leaving the darkness behind, soon only a light cloud layer separated us from the brilliance of the sunlight that I had been longing to see once again. “Please, Lord….!” Closer and closer. I held my breath the last couple of seconds, until we burst through the last haze of cloud into a different world of blue skies and bright sunshine.
The pilot turned around to see how the patient was reacting to the change of altitude. Nothing I could notice. Then I sighed with relief, and turned my attention to the world below. I had thought I would see an endless cloud cover, in every direction. It had certainly seemed, from within the clouds, that the whole world had been a tempest, tossing us to and fro, with no one in charge; no one upon the throne. But the expanse of green jungle, winding rivers and distant mountain peaks that I suddenly saw below me was a complete, orderly, and well-attended world, obviously under the care of the Master Designer. And the storm we had been flying through for so long, and with such difficulty, was a long, isolated stretch of turbulence and cloud-cover that seemed so utterly insignificant now that I saw it in perspective. God was still on the throne.
I don’t need to tell you how I began to look at the Yanomamo work, and at life in general, from a different point of view, once the significance of seeing things from a higher perspective began to take shape in my mind! The view I’d had from the storm clouds below was not the true picture. And it wasn’t just somewhat distorted, it was completely wrong.
It almost seems anti-climatic to add that the little girl I took out in the plane lived through that tragedy that nearly took her life. She is a woman now, living in Parima. I knew from the beginning that her physical life hinged on that flight, but I had no idea how much of my own life, in a spiritual sense, also hinged on it. I relive that experience almost every time I fly, and praise the Lord for the reality of that song my mother used to sing. God is still on the throne.
View the original print magazine where this article was first published.