Wasp in the cockpit
I have several questions that I would like answered when I get to heaven. Some are very serious about disease, pestilence and violence. Some are kind of funny, like “Why did You make an armadillo?” (My answer is “To torment the Texans,” but there might be a better answer.) Noah will have to answer questions like “Could you not have left ‘the following’ animals and insects behind?” Actually, I believe heaven will be so beautiful and wonderful that my list of questions will be so insignificant that there will never be time to question anything that happened during the brief stay on earth.
But, just for the moment, let me ask the question, “Why wasps?”
It seems to me there is an abundance of wasps this year. Maybe it is just on John’s Island, but we are surrounded at our house. I have a can of wasp killer at the door and one in the attic — the little, scary, mean-looking insects love our attic. A wasp has not stung me in several years, but the memory of that long-ago sting makes me very cautious about defending myself.
The presence of wasps brought back a flying memory that still makes me afraid. I actually think it was a bee, not a wasp, but bees are so important in the “gardening plan” that I don’t want to say anything bad about a bee.
“Emergency Procedures” were a part of every preflight briefing. We were required by the IP to recite the procedures for dealing with any emergency. “Engine Failure on Takeoff,” “Hydraulic Failure in Flight,” “Spin Recovery,” “Bird Strike” … every emergency had a definite response that the pilot was required to memorize and, hopefully, use in case it actually happened.
I do remember talking about a wasp in the cockpit. I cannot remember if there was actually a Checklist Response or just a serious discussion. The time one discovered the presence of the beast-wasp made a difference to the response. If you just closed the canopy after starting the engines, “open canopy” and pray for the little monster to fly away. If you are halfway down the runway on takeoff roll, “maintain control of aircraft” and hope the wasp is watching the take-off also. If you have just leveled off after your initial climb, “fly the plane; initiate rapid climb.” Hopefully, the little wasp will run out of oxygen, pass out and (forgive me, wasp-lovers) die. This may not sound like a big deal when discussing the thrills and chills of flying an airplane, but I assure you, if you are the solo student in your million-dollar (plus) T-38, a wasp in the cockpit can be terrifying.
A “wasp in the cockpit” is a metaphor for all the scary things that can take away the joy of living. We may wonder how they got into our world, but these “wasps” can ruin your day and possibly your life. Some of the things that sting us are outside our control — mean people at work or unkind people in the marketplace. Some of the stings come from bad choices we make, like alcohol or drug abuse; pornography, or hanging around with the wrong people. These bad choices may start out as seemingly innocent “crossing the line a little bit.” The sting at the end of the adventure can really hurt. Of course, we sometimes hear of “good people” who really play with a “wasp’s nest” and get stung very badly. A little lie, a secret affair, a dishonest act are not far away from any of us. Remember King David and Bathsheba — “Ouch!”
What do we do when the “wasps” get into our cockpit? “Fly the plane.” Do not loose control even though it is frightening. When an angel shows up in the Bible, they usually say, “Do not be afraid.” God is still in control of His universe, fly the plane. The Lord Jesus said the Father knows when a sparrow falls: “Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:31)
“Call the Controller of the Universe.” There is no place that God is not present. The Psalmist wrote, “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there you hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139: 8-10)
If the “wasp moment” was self-inflicted, there is the need to repent, seek God’s forgiveness and be healed. King David had to go through Psalm 51 to get rid of the stings of his sins. The “Emergency Procedure” for self-inflicted “wasp sting” is Psalm 51. “Wash me … cleanse me … purge me … wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”
You may be one of those blessed people who have not had a wasp fly into your car or cockpit. But on the journey of life, the “wasps” come along. Be ready and “fear not.”
Chaplain Charles C. Baldwin (major general, USAF, retired) is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He and his wife, Anne, have been married for 46 years and have three married children and ten grandchildren. They are members of the First Baptist Church, Charleston, S.C.