Night Flight – Grant Corriveau

Watching the beauty of the night sky unfold before him, a pilot marvels at the grandeur of God’s creation and the love that created it.

We climb northwest from ORD, and as we leave 10,000 feet the first officer begins slowly turning our Airbus A320 towards Montreal. Below, in the soft darkness of early evening, the lights of Chicago slide by. I take advantage of a quiet moment in my duties to enjoy the view of the western horizon. “Hey Dave, look over here.” I call my first officer’s attention to what I’m seeing out my window. Because we’re climbing out of the earth’s shadow, the sun appears to be rising. “Now we can honestly claim that we’ve seen the sun rise in the west.” He smiles.

Then he draws my attention toward the eastern horizon on his side. “Wow,” I eloquently state. “That’s so awesome.” Words fail me as I react to what I’m seeing. The full, harvest moon is also rising in shimmers of luminescent gold. Overhead the sky shifts from crimson and deep blue to black as the brightest stars in the east begin breaking through. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers … “ Psalm 8 echoes in my mind. I also recall something a friend once told me: “When we open ourselves to wonder, God can speak.”

Soon we are at 37,000 feet and cruising towards the falling night. We move our chairs close to the front windscreen, our noses almost pressed against the glass inside the darkened cockpit — like staring into the world’s largest aquarium. We begin to share a mutual sense of awe invoked by the expanse of black sky and brilliant stars before us.

“I think it’s a little like that spider on my back porch,” I muse. “My attempts to understand the universe are a little like that spider trying to comprehend my house, my yard, the surrounding city. How would he even be able to think of such things — it’s beyond his capabilities.” I pause to sip on a cup of hot tea. “And how does he perceive me as I loom over him. That must be like me trying to comprehend God.”

“I don’t know if I believe in God,” Dave counters. I’m pleased that he is comfortable enough to express his doubts to me. “If we are God’s children then wouldn’t He be more obvious to us? Wouldn’t He teach us His language for example, to guide us and help us? We do that with our own children.”

I take another sip of tea, letting his response sink in. “That’s a great question.” I turn the thought over in my mind. “Does God have a language?” How would we even recognize it? How can I grasp this? I try to imagine myself as a newborn baby lying in a crib hearing, yet not comprehending, as my parents coo and aah and speak words of love.

On nights like this when the weather is good and the air traffic is light our flight deck assumes an air of calmness born from many hours of practice and repetition. Dave quietly attends to his duties navigating the aircraft while I make the occasional reports on the radio as we progress through the air traffic control sectors. The steam rises from my tea and fogs my glasses. Below, the complex web of Toronto’s lights turn into softly diffused blurs of yellow and gold. The steam feels good on my face.

Does God have a language? Jesus is called “the Living Word.” That must be significant. I know the Bible tells us in ancient days God spoke to us through the prophets, but in these last days by His Son (see Hebrews 1:1). I recall Jesus’ new command, “Love one another … “ The mist on my glasses slowly clears. God is Love!

Is it possible that love is the very language of God? That love is not only the message but also the language that conveys the message? Communications ‘guru’ Marshall McLuhan once said “the medium is the message.” Maybe I’m beginning to understand. Maybe God’s love surrounds us as surely as warm blankets enfold the newborn baby. He surrounds us in constant whispers of sunsets, stars and warm tea. I want to reflect more on this, but the lights of Montreal are appearing now over the horizon ahead and we are about to get busy.

“Dave, that is one of the most profound things I’ve heard in a long while. I hope we can continue this another time.” Dave nods. “Sure.” Maybe he’s a little surprised? He calls for the pre-descent checklist and we begin the landing preparations. As we gently glide towards the earth, I marvel as I observe stars setting in the east.

Originally published in the Northern Light Magazine, May/June 2004.

Grant Corriveau is the author of Uplift A Pilot’s Journey by CWR Press

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