Sobering parallels between Flight MH370 and our own lives.
Mystery and Tragedy
Flight MH370 flew a course that seems to make no sense. After leaving Malaysia and flying north, well over the ocean, it went radio silent, not accepting or transmitting communications from air traffic controllers. Then it made a sudden U turn. Its transponders were turned off, making it extremely difficult to track. Flying almost in stealth mode, it eventually turned south on a steady, pointless course to nowhere, cruised for hours until it ran out of fuel, and crashed into the ocean taking with it everyone on board.
A simple, likely answer is beginning to emerge. We don’t know why or how it started, maybe there was an explosion or a mechanical failure or even a terrorist act. Whatever it was, pressurization likely failed in the cabin. As pressure dropped, oxygen levels declined. Oxygen masks are supposed to deploy automatically–a clear warning sign to the pilots. However, pilots’ masks only contain an hour’s worth of oxygen, so they are supposed to descend quickly to lower altitudes where oxygen is plentiful.
But what if the pilot doesn’t descend quickly to safety?
Without the additional oxygen found at lower, safer altitudes, the crew gradually develops hypoxia. Silently deprived of the nourishment their body most needs to survive–oxygen!–the crew grows unable to do even the most basic manual tasks. Yet their confidence in their own abilities remains high. Unable to sense their peril, they fly on until they pass out and crash.
In my own life, I’ve seen this happen spiritually.
It may start with overwhelming workloads, stresses, or distractions that push essential spiritual things out of focus. Spiritual confidence remains high–I have a sure testimony of the truth, after all–but the sweet impressions and directions of the Spirit grow weaker and less frequent. Soon I am nearly without guidance yet am barely able to sense the change.
If I am not careful, I may soon confuse true and false impressions [Subscribe to Every Good Thing to see my upcoming article on the principles of discerning true and false revelation] yet I continue to fly, thinking I am heeding the Spirit, when in fact my own thoughts and feelings have taken precedence.
Unless I get adequate spiritual oxygen, I will continue flying through life without true spiritual direction, maybe even taking my family and others with me on a dangerous course.
Even Those We Love and Respect
We’ve seen it countless times in the lives of early Latter-day Saints–pioneers who lived and suffered and sacrificed for the restored gospel. Then something goes wrong. Failing to descend humbly and quickly to safe spiritual altitudes, they cruise on in a uncertain course, inevitably bringing sorrow and potential tragedy.
Oliver Cowdery fell prey to this–a man I love with all my heart–a modern “apostle of Jesus Christ” (in the Savior’s own words) and “the second elder of this church.” (DC 20:2-3.) When trouble arose, instead of descending to the safe altitudes of humility and obedience and fellowship with those who loved him and could offer vision and support, he flew his own course. Still confident in his own abilities, he did not realize his own weakened condition.
Oliver returned shortly before his death. How I rejoice in that!! Yet how much pointless sorrow did he endure? How many years were wasted? How much opportunity was lost to him, to his posterity, and to us because of his spiritual hypoxia?
We also see it too in the lives of those we love most–friends, family members, children, spouses. Sudden radio silence, U-turns, not communicating with the tower, flying on willfully at high altitudes. We hurt and yearn and pray for them because we know the sorrow that lies ahead.
How can we reach them? How can we help them descend to safe altitudes where unhindered vision and discernment will return?
When pressurization fails, special measure are required. We must immediately head to lower altitudes where the oxygen is plentiful.
Spiritually, we need to descend to the basics. Sincere personal prayer, repenting of our sins with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and confessing our sins to the Lord and those we may have offended are essential. We may also need other common sense changes like regular sleep and food, reducing stress, and getting help from competent spiritual and medical physicians. We may need to remove obstacles that prevent us from descending.
Whatever it takes, get to safe altitudes quickly, breathe the rich air, and think clearly again!
I’ve learned (from personal experience, sadly) what spiritual hypoxia feels like. You think things are fine, yet they are absolutely not! Why didn’t I notice the oxygen masks dangling in my face? The Lord sent warnings, and I wasn’t praying attention, or maybe I didn’t apply the mask properly. Why didn’t I notice that I had stopped praying in the sincerity of my heart morning and night? Why didn’t I notice that I wasn’t reading and studying the scriptures diligently every day as I had been? And when I did notice it, why was it so hard to start changing?
Small and Simple Things
The Lord has said that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” (Alma 37:6)
So it is with an airplane. Push the stick forward, reduce the throttle, start your descent. Slow and steady is all it takes.
Great changes happen through simple beginnings. Small habits are easiest to develop, so start small, good habits. Once begun, they take on a life of their own and push you to safer and safer elevations.
Start by reading the scriptures every day, any time of day, the same time every day, without fail, even if it is only one verse. Nighttime just before bed is good. Early–before you let yourself check email or TXT messages–is even better.
Then pray every night before retiring. If you are stressed this may be hard, but do your best, even if it is only a few moments. But do it without fail, no matter how tired you are. I’ve found that when I persevere even though it’s hard, the blessings and answers come more quickly.
Then practice humility. Start listening and learning more from others, so you won’t fly in radio silence without safe guidance. We ALL need reminders from each other–even apostles and prophets. The best way I know to develop more humility is to admit our faults–repentance is the keystone of this process.
Then quickly heed whatever simple spiritual promptings start to come. The Spirit’s mission is to lead you in the shortest, quickest path to true and lasting happiness. As you start listening again, those first promptings will be simple, not grandiose or strained. My son once prayed for help in a stressful time and received an impression: “clear your desk.” Doing that, he could suddenly focus and discern better what his next steps should be. As we heed those simple directions more will come, and more, until “that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (DC 50:24)
I know this process works.
I love you and care about you. If ANY of this resonates for you, I beg you to head to a safe altitude–you are in danger!
Image Credit: Plane by publicdomainpictures.net, public domain.